Doctor of Philosophy in sustainable energy

About the Doctor of Philosophy degree

Today’s global energy transitions demand leaders who can seamlessly navigate interwoven technical, societal, and environmental challenges. The newly established PhD in sustainable energy, offered on ASU’s Tempe campus, transcends the boundaries of traditional methodologies and disciplinary viewpoints to achieve a sustainable energy future.

Students in the degree program will conduct collaborative cross-disciplinary research integrating energy science with societal and policy insights. Drawing upon emerging knowledge and deep historical insights, and integrating information from the physical, biological, and social sciences, students will explore and contribute to sustainable solutions that address urgent energy challenges now and in the future.

Graduates will be prepared to bridge diverse domains and communities, fostering socio-technical innovation and developing sustainable energy solutions and policies.

Admission requirements

Students may be admitted to the PhD in sustainable energy program with either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree from an international institution officially recognized by that country. Applicants from diverse educational and professional backgrounds are encouraged.

Learning outcomes

PhD in sustainable energy graduates will have an advanced understanding of the dynamics and complexity of global energy systems and will be able to lead others in research providing adaptive solutions to specific sustainable energy challenges. In addition to the common learning outcomes, PhD in sustainable energy students will be able to:

  • Use their analytical and theoretical knowledge to elucidate and contextualize complex, transdisciplinary issues surrounding energy.
  • Contribute to the body of knowledge of complex energy systems through transdisciplinary research.
  • Function within the science-policy nexus with a unique understanding of issues and proposing innovative solutions.
  • Produce a portfolio of research accomplishments in complex energy systems that will position them to be competitive for employment opportunities in academia, industry, and government.


If admitted with a bachelor’s degree, students must complete a minimum of 84 semester hours. If admitted with a master’s degree, they must complete a minimum of 54 hours.

Requirements and electives

With a bachelor’s degreeCredits
Core courses:18
Electives (400-level or 500-level) Of which, a maximum of 6 credits can be at the 400-level:42
Total credits required84
With a master’s degreeCredits
Core courses:18
Electives (400-level or 500-level) Of which, a maximum of 6 credits can be at the 400-level:12
Total credits required 54

Courses and electives

Core courses

SOS 571: Sustainable Energy I: Technologies and Systems (3 credits)

This is the first in a sequence of foundational courses (571, 572, and 573) in the graduate program for sustainable energy. This course provides a primer on the scientific, technological, and social aspects of energy. It has three core modules: (1) primer on the physics of energy, (2) a review of power systems and electricity generation technologies, and (3) a review of transportation systems and fuel/vehicle technologies. Although the class focuses on energy technology, it also incorporates discussions of the human dimensions of energy systems.

SOS 572: Sustainable Energy II: Transitions (3 credits)

This course follows the thread of energy transitions through every aspect of our lives. It stresses the technological, economic, social, and political contexts of energy transitions. It addresses energy use throughout history, the influence of energy on quality of life, how energy use has influenced the process of urbanization and how considerations of access to and control of energy sources shapes geopolitical strategies.

SOS 573: Sustainable Energy III: Futures Analysis, Negotiation and Governance (3 credits)

This course provides a basis for understanding the intersection of social, political, cultural, economic, and technical dynamics of existing and emerging energy system possibilities, emphasizing the roles of human decision-making as well as new scientific and technological developments. It emphasizes the development of sophisticated competency in several broad thematic capacities that are required to understand, engage with, and provide thought leadership in the ongoing challenge of creating and cultivating sustainable energy systems.

SOS 574: Sustainable Energy Analytics in Context (3 credits)

This course will address the primary metrics, data sources, and methodologies used to measure sustainable energy, including how they are used to track progress toward sustainability goals and shape public policies. It covers the metrics for comparing the cost, efficiency, social equity and environmental impacts of various energy sources, and issues pertaining to product life cycle evaluation. These metrics provide the foundation for assessing the relative merits of various energy and production options based on a variety of possible criteria. In addition to imparting factual knowledge for quantitatively evaluating a multiplicity of energy sources and systems and their impact on the environment, it will build skills in research, comparative analysis and critical thinking that will catalyze a lifetime of engagement with the complex and evolving issues surrounding sustainability.

SOS 575: Sustainable Energy Research Seminar (1 credit)

This is a seminar-based course for Sustainable Energy doctoral students focusing on research skills for transdisciplinary energy research. The seminar has a different focus in the Fall and Spring. In the Fall, the course focuses on research methods. In the Spring, the course focuses on the process of generating research ideas and writing effective research proposals.

SOS 589: Community of Scholars (1 credit)

This seminar provides the opportunity to develop new skills, to foster cohort building, to interact with other students and faculty in the School of Sustainability, and to network and build support with the alumni network.

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