Courses: 2018-19 Academic Year

Educating the next generation of environmental leaders is one of the many ways Duke's Nicholas Institute helps bridge the gap between science and policy. During Duke's 2018-2019 academic year, staff members are aiding in this mission by teaching courses across campus. For more information on these courses, visit

Fall 2018

Duke University

Transformation of the U.S. Electric Power Sector 
Graduate and professional students will explore power sector trends, from rapid deployment of renewables and natural gas, to the use of block chain and micro-grids. Instructors will place these trends in historical context and describe state and federal policies and regulations; emerging and increasingly affordable technologies; and evolving customer demands that are driving fundamental changes on the grid. Students will employ critical thinking skills and scenario planning to evaluate policy alternatives and envision the grid of the future. Through robust class discussion and three policy projects, students will gain a deeper understanding of the legal and economic underpinnings of the industry, and propose creative solutions to ensure an affordable, reliable, and increasingly clean power supply. (ENERGY 790.03)

​Instructors: Brian Murray, faculty affiliate at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute and director of the Duke University Energy Initiative; Kate Konschnik, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Nicholas Institute; Jim Rogers, retired chairman and CEO, Duke Energy; and Norman Bay, senior fellow, Duke University Energy Initiative and Nicholas Institute.

Renewables and the World's Poor
This graduate-level course focuses on the glaring human need to bring electric power to the 1.2 billion people in the world that lack it. The class will look at the differentiated challenge between rural and urban systems, and the technologies that can solve the unique challenges of each developmental situation. It will also investigate the impediments to progress, and explore the different business models and technologies that are being used to tackle the challenge. The class will culminate by asking the students to help design the most appropriate model for deploying power technologies in a range of world regions. (ENERGY 790.02)

​Instructors: Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute, and Jim Rogers, retired chairman and CEO of Duke Energy.

U.N. Climate Change Negotiation Practicum
Duke University’s U.N. Climate Change Negotiations Practicum is a hands-on course that explores international climate change negotiations and climate policy under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

Now in its ninth year, the Bass Connections-affiliated course provides students with an opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of the issues at the heart of global climate change — from adaptation and mitigation to the political dynamics of the UNFCCC negotiations process. Students engage in independent coursework, classroom discussions, and guest lectures throughout the semester, all in preparation to attend the annual U.N. climate change negotiations, which takes place this year in Katowice, Poland. Interested students may subscribe to the newsletter for more information about the course.

Instructors: Billy Pizer, faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute, and Jonathan Wiener, professor, Duke School of Law, and graduate students Adam Fischer and Ryan Callihan.

Energy Law
This course provides an introduction to U.S. energy law through the examination of the legal framework governing electricity production and the extraction and use of energy sources. It is designed to provide an overview of key topics in energy law so that students develop a foundational understanding of energy law and policy. (LAW 327/ENERGY 727) 

Instructor: Amy Pickle, director, State Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute.

Water Resources Planning and Management
This course is intended to give students a first exposure to ideas of planning and management of organizations related to water resources. The course will develop a basic framework for strategic planning for environmental organizations with specific applications to water resources. It will provide some tools for forecasting future water conditions, as well as emerging tools for forecasting uncertain water conditions. Finally, it will expose students to approaches in water management, particularly adaptive management and scenario forecasting. (ENVIRON 740) 

Instructor: Martin Doyle, director, Water Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute.

Spring 2019

Climate Change Economics and Policy
Global climate change is thought by many to be the most significant environmental challenge of the 21st century. Unchecked, the continued accumulation of greenhouse gases over this century is projected to eventually warm the planet by about 3 to 8 Celsius (6 to 14 Fahrenheit), with associated impacts on the environment, economy, and society. Because the emissions of greenhouse gases result from virtually every kind of economic activity—driving a car, heating a home, operating a steel mill, raising pigs—any policy aimed at reducing emissions will have significant and broad-based impacts on the economy. This course will explore the economic characteristics of the climate change problem, assess national and international policy design and current implementation issues, and survey the economic tools necessary to evaluate climate change policies.  The course will be discussion-oriented and will require a high degree of participation by students in the classroom.  

Instructor: Billy Pizer, faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute and professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Water Resources Finance 
This course covers the basics of water resources infrastructure finance with a focus on municipal water and wastewater and irrigation infrastructure. It examines four cases which include municipal water supply debt financing; alternative rate structures for revenue generation; public-private partnerships for infrastructure financing and operations; and private equity approaches to water conservation in the western U.S. leveraging water marketing opportunities for revenue generation. (ENVIRON 741)

Instructor: Martin Doyle, director of the Water Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute and professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Managing the Oceans to Solve Global Problems
This course focuses on the importance of the oceans in addressing some of the central problems facing the world, including poverty, hunger, access to energy, climate change, and biodiversity loss. It introduces students to important laws and policies that make the resources and services provided by the ocean more resilient and sustainable. Students will emerge with a basic grasp of the principal legal and policy mechanisms that support reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the oceans and coasts through adaptation and marine resilience in the face of human drivers of change. The course explores such challenges as protecting corals, regulating fishing and pollution, and helping climate refugees. (ENVIRON 314)

Instructors: John Virdin, director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute and Steve Roady, faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute.

From the Ground Up
This Bass Connections project aims to understand the energy access problem and potential solutions from the perspective of people who are dealing with it firsthand. These include households, communities and enterprises that lack access to reliable electricity; international and domestic companies that are in the market to provide off-grid and on-grid solutions; and policymakers. Within this “bottom-up” context, the project team will address the barriers to investment by creating a market analysis and a regulatory roadmap. Targeted at policymakers and market actors, these products will aim to help accelerate the development of well-functioning markets for public and private investment in on-grid and off-grid electricity provision. (ENERGY 396/796)

Instructors: Jonathan Phillips, Director of the Energy Access Program, and Rob Fetter, Senior Policy Associate.

Introduction to Ecosystem Services and Methods for Their Quantification
This course introduces students to the concept of ecosystem services, which is increasingly recognized as a useful framework for decision-making, and provides an overview of the suite of methods that are used to quantify these services. This course will use a set of hands-on activities to walk students through the development of an ecosystem services model, selection of socio-economic indicators, and an assessment of analytical gaps for cases selected by the students. The course will also explain how ecosystem services application can be informed by a suite of skills that are taught across the Nicholas School and other similar programs. This will include topics such as Structured Decision Making, ecological modeling, Bayesian Belief Networks, Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis, and Monetary Valuation (non-market valuation methods). We will close with a number of examples of applications from federal agencies and NGOs. (ENVIRON.634.01)

Instructors: Lydia Olander, Sara Mason, and Katie Warnell.

Climate Change and the Law
This 2-credit seminar will examine global climate change and the range of actual and potential responses by legal institutions – including at the international level, within the United States and other countries, at the subnational level, and at the urging of the private sector. We will compare alternative approaches that have been or could be taken by legal systems to address climate change: the choice of policy instrument; the spatial scale; the targets of the policy and criteria for deciding between these policy choices. We will examine actual legal measures that have been adopted so far to manage climate change: international agreements such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), its Kyoto Protocol (1997) and Paris Agreement (2015); as well as the policies undertaken by key national and subnational systems. In the US, we will study national (federal) and subnational (state and local) policies, including EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act, other federal laws and policies relevant to climate change mitigation, state-level action by California, RGGI states, and North Carolina. We will also explore the use of tort/nuisance civil liability to advance climate policy. (LAW 520 / ENVIRON 502)

Instructor: Kate Konschnik, Director, Climate and Energy Program.

Ethical Dimensions of Environmental Policy: Energy and Climate Change 
Using case studies, this course introduces students to the ethical dimensions of decision-making in the design and implementation of environmental policy. It will focus on one case study: the implementation of NC Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80 regarding resiliency in NC. The course will focus on how NC decision makers make the hard decisions implicit in deciding what counts as a “resilient state.” To understand how normative assumptions influence policies, students will conduct an ethical inquiry into how to incorporate communities in the decision making process. Students will have the opportunity to conduct their own qualitative research and produce policy analysis. Throughout the course, students will interact with stakeholders involved in the decision-making process and participate in one or more skills-building workshops and/or field trips. (ETHICS 288S/GLHLTH 248S)

Instructors: Kay Jowers, senior policy associate at the Nicholas Institute; Amy Pickle, director, State Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute.

University of North Carolina Courses

Social and Economic Justice
This course covers the theory and practice of social and economic justice, including analyses of racial-, gender-, sexual-, class-, and national origin-based inequality and other forms of justice, the history of influential movements for justice, and strategies of struggles for justice. (SOCI 274)

Instructor: Kay Jowers, senior policy associate at the Nicholas Institute.