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:

  • Learn from broad and unrivaled faculty expertise in environmental and energy policy analysis. From evaluating policies to conserve 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.
  • Choose among dozens of diverse elective courses on law, politics, economics, and policy across the Duke campus. 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.
  • Collaborate with faculty and students at the top-ranked Nicholas School of the Environment. 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.
  • Join experts at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions in designing policy responses to the most pressing environmental and energy challenges.  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.
  • Forge new scientific discoveries with interdisciplinary project teams at the Duke University Energy Initiative. 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

Steven E. Sexton

Steven E. Sexton

Mark and Lynne Florian Assistant Professor of Public Policy

Sexton holds a Ph.D. in environmental and resource economics from UC Berkeley and is assistant professor of public policy and economics at Duke University. He is also a faculty fellow of the Duke University Energy Initiative. His research focuses on energy industry organization and energy policy, as well as environmental and transportation policy, particularly as they pertain to carbon emissions reductions. Relying on econometric methods and insights from behavioral economics, Sexton has evaluated air pollution control policy, policy for rooftop solar technology adoption, the environmental impacts of local foods and genetically engineered crops, and household electricity consumption. Current areas of interest include shale resource development and renewable technology adoption. His research is published in leading economics and environmental economics journals, including Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Economic Perspectives, and Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. His research has been featured by U.S. and international media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, Der Spiegel, The Australian,, Elle Australia, and Men’s Health. A past contributor to the Freakonomics blog, he is a former Executive Fellow in the Office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.


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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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