• University of Exeter

Transforming Energy Systems: Why Governance Matters

Tackling climate change demands profound and rapid energy system transformation. Discover how effective governance enables this.

5,791 enrolled on this course

  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours

Understand the importance of governance for rapid energy system decarbonisation.

Energy governance includes the rules, regulations, institutions and politics that affect energy system change. Effective governance is key to the transformation of energy systems in order to tackle climate change with the urgency that’s needed.

On this course, you will explore how and why energy systems need to change, and what this means for security, people and costs. You will also learn about the key elements of effective energy governance and explore real-life examples of energy governance from around the world.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds We are facing a climate emergency. global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise whilst the window for action to limit the worst impacts of climate change is closing. Energy use accounts for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to decarbonise our energy system, and we need to do it now. To avoid a climate breakdown, the scale and pace of decarbonisation needs to increase. To do this, we need to change the rules, regulations and institutions that govern our energy systems; it is this governance which enables or constrains system change.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds Over this four week course ‘Transforming Energy Systems – why governance matters’ you will learn from leading researchers about what energy systems look like, what challenges we face, what changes are in progress, what governance is and how changing it can accelerate the delivery of a renewable, secure, equitable energy system.


  • Week 1

    Energy system transformation: changes, challenges and governance

    • Welcome and Course Introduction

      Professor Catherine Mitchell welcomes you to the course and the themes of the first week on energy system transformations and their governance.

    • Understanding energy systems

      How do energy systems currently work in terms of their design, operation and governance? What is it that we need energy systems to do? Find out more in this activity!

    • The impacts of conventional energy systems

      Conventional energy systems have a number of unwanted impacts. In this activity we are going to focus on two of these – climate change and air pollution.

    • Energy system change

      In this activity you will examine how energy systems are starting to change with respect to D4 – decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitalisation and democratisation. We will also focus in detail on digitalisation.

    • The governance challenge

      What is the role of governance in energy system transformations and what are the challenges that it has to address in moving the system to one that is clean, secure, affordable and equitable?

    • End of Week 1

      Finish up Week 1 by reflecting on what we’ve learned so far about energy governance.

  • Week 2

    Emerging energy systems

    • Welcome to Week 2

      Find out what is coming up in Week 2 of the course on emerging energy systems and discover why taking a whole systems approach is so important.

    • Changing energy system characteristics

      In this activity we will look at different technologies and their costs to better understand how these trends are changing the design and operation of energy systems and the markets that surround them.

    • Directions of energy system change

      Find out how energy systems are becoming more flexible and the technologies behind this; and how to think about different phases in energy transformations.

    • Changing Money Flows and New Business Models

      In this activity we will explore how money flows are moving towards different actors, and what new business models are emerging.

    • Energy institutions in changing energy systems

      Find out more about current GB institutions and the problems they face within a changing energy system.

    • End of Week 2

      Finish Week 2 by reflecting on what you’ve learnt about emerging energy systems.

  • Week 3

    People, Scale and Society

    • Welcome to Week 3

      Jess Britton introduces the content for Week 3 on people, scale and society, before setting out how the role of people within energy systems is changing.

    • Understanding the changing role of people in energy systems and the need for meaningful consent and equity

      To tackle climate change, energy systems need to fundamentally change and at pace. Such changes will increasingly need public consent to happen smoothly and will require a greater focus on equity to ensure no one is left behind.

    • Why is local energy becoming more important?

      In this activity we will look at what local energy is, why it is becoming more important and what are the implications of this shift for system change and governance.

    • The role of society in energy system transformations

      Find out how individuals, communities and wider society can play a vital role in shaping energy system transformations.

    • Challenges of system change across scales

      Energy systems are changing at multiple scales, often simultaneously. This creates challenges and opportunities, including how to optimise a system and how to coordinate different actions at different scales.

    • End of Week 3

      Finish Week 3 by reflecting on what you’ve learnt about people, scale and society.

  • Week 4

    Energy governance change for rapid decarbonisation

    • Welcome to Week 4

      Catherine Mitchell introduces Week 4, setting out what governance changes we think should happen, and why, in order to rapidly transform our energy system into one which is sustainable, secure and equitable.

    • Problems for energy governance to address

      In this activity we will look at a number of different problems that governance needs to address, including direction-setting, supply focus and decision making. We will also examine the need to understand and address equity.

    • Good governance – insights from other countries

      How are other countries dealing with energy system change and the challenges of governance? We will some explore some examples from around the world and ask, what can we learn from them?

    • IGov’s proposed reforms to energy system governance

      Getting governance right requires reform to many of the policies, institutions, rules and incentives that make up current governance framework. We are going to explore some of the key reforms we think are needed.

    • Conclusions – A fit-for-purpose energy governance framework

      In this the final activity we pull together the IGov proposal for creating a new fit for purpose energy governance framework that could oversee the process of energy system transformation.

    • End of Week 4

      In this section we draw together conclusions from the course as a whole.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the need for energy system transformation, ways to achieve it and the role of governance within it
  • Describe how the characteristics of energy systems are changing as they become smarter and flexible and what this means for institutions and system value streams
  • Explore how energy systems are becoming more localised and closer to people, and what the implications of this are for coordinating change
  • Identify what governance change is required to deliver a sustainable, equitable, affordable and secure energy system
  • Apply your knowledge of governance to identify suitable changes for rapid decarbonisation

Who is the course for?

This course is for those with an existing knowledge or interest in energy systems and energy system change. This includes energy practitioners, policymakers, regulators, researchers and students in the field.

Who will you learn with?

Catherine Mitchell is Professor of Energy Policy at Exeter University. She works on the link between energy governance and innovation and runs the IGov research project www.exeter.ac.uk/igov

Jess Britton is a Research Fellow in the Energy Policy Group at the University of Exeter. She works on the local governance needs for energy system change and new business models.

Helen Poulter is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Exeter studying the role of adaptive governance in energy system transformation.

Rebecca Willis is a Research Fellow in the Energy Policy Group at the University of Exeter. She focusses on energy and climate governance issues. www.rebeccawillis.co.uk

Who developed the course?

University of Exeter

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction.

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