The Environment and Energy concentration prepares students to evaluate, implement and influence environment and energy policy.

Students tailor their studies in the Energy and Environment concentration to best-prepare for diverse careers in environmental and energy law, regulation, policymaking, research, consulting, and advocacy. Selecting among many elective courses, students can choose to develop deep expertise in an environmental sector, like air quality, clean tech, or climate change mitigation, or sample courses that lend a broader perspective on contemporary environment and energy topics.

This concentration is particularly for those engaged in environmental stewardship or energy development interested in careers in local, state and national governments, including regulatory agencies and legislative offices, environmental non-profits and non-governmental organizations, water and energy utilities, consultancies and research organizations, and private firms.

With unparalleled access to elective courses in environment and energy law, policy, politics and economics, students can seize growing career opportunities related to resource conservation, air and water pollution control, climate change mitigation and clean energy innovation.


    Students Can

    From evaluating policies to conserving natural habitat in the Amazon, promoting diffusion of solar photovoltaics in the U.S., providing clean energy and water technologies in Central and South Asia to delivering renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sanford’s many environment and energy policy experts are generating rigorous research to inform pressing policy challenges, including persistent pollution and climate change risks.

    Faculty are recognized for their expertise around the world, advising the White House, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank, state governments, and policymakers. They have contributed to National Academy of Sciences reports on decarbonization and climate damage evaluation, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments, the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Lancet-Rockefeller Commission on Planetary Health.

    Options include Climate Change Economics and Policy; International Environmental Policy; Collective Action; Sustainable Development; Environment & Development; Energy & Development; Global Environmental Health. Students are afforded tremendous flexibility in formulating curricula that takes advantage of broad expertise. Duke’s unparalleled campus-wide commitment to solving environmental and energy problems is leveraged by students with diverse interests in these policy domains.

    Beautiful glass building with waving grasses in foreground

    Duke’s Nicholas School is home to experts across 45 environmental sectors, from atmospheric sciences, to forests and urban environment. Enroll in Duke Environment courses, gain knowledge in research laboratories, and immerse yourself in co-curricular activities that take advantage of North Carolina’s vibrant and diverse landscape.

    From global plastics pollution to ecosystem and community resiliency in North Carolina to energy access in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, faculty are uncovering solutions. Nicholas Institute experts operate at the intersection of academia and the policy world, informing design of carbon market programs in the U.S. and around the world, engaging utilities, regulators, and environmental groups in planning the electric grid of the future, and leading the world in development of ecosystem accounts that more fully reflect the wellbeing and sustainability of our communities. Gain unprecedented insights into environmental policymaking and access to the leaders making environmental policy improvements.

    The initiative is dedicated to advancing a safe, affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy future by training tomorrow’s energy leaders and fostering new energy discoveries.

    Knowledge and Skills Students Can Acquire

    • Statistical tools to test hypotheses and to evaluate policies and programs, including experimental and quasi-experimental approaches to estimating parameters of interest;
    • Analytic tools to investigate the efficiency and equity implications of environmental programs and energy regulations and conduct welfare analyses, including partial equilibrium and general equilibrium analysis.
    • Decision-making under uncertainty;
    • Methods to determine the value of non-market environmental resources, like clean air, recreation sites, and ecosystem services, including stated-preference survey design;
    • Policy expertise and research experience pursuant to completion of an environment or energy-oriented master project, often specific to the research interests of a public or private sector client operating in the energy and environment space.

    Policy Concentration Advisor

    Sara A. Sutherland

    Sara A. Sutherland

    Lecturer, Univ in the Sanford School of Public Policy

    Dr. Sutherland is an environmental economist whose research focuses in part on the political economy of natural resource management, with a focus on fisheries and water management. She holds a Masters degree in Economics and a PhD in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Sutherland collaborates with state agencies to tackle environmental issues in North Carolina. She is currently working on projects to inform legislatures on the economic value of North Carolina's natural resources including commercial fisheries and seagrass. 

    For several years, she has specialized in teaching economics courses at the undergrad and graduate levels. Her classes are intended to challenge students’ preconceptions, encouraging them to understand how economic incentives drive behavior.


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    Sanford offers top-ranked environmental academics and expertise in environmental and energy policy to address policy innovations that affect the very health of our planet at a crucial time when science is being questioned.

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