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School of Environment, Education and Development

Student in The Atrium at The University of Manchester
BA Geography

Study a course tailored to you at the university ranked fourth in the UK for Geography (Guardian University Guide).

BA Geography

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Energy, Society and Space

Unit code GEOG30201
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit follows on from first- and second-year courses that have examined the links between spatial formations, on the one hand, and global social, economic, environmental or urban trends, on the other. We will apply some of the questions opened in such courses to the geographies of sustainability, energy flows, society, space and capitalism. The course unit is based on the premise that energy systems have become a core part of modern societies, since they heavily influence the location and dynamics of human economic and social activities. We will critically examine the contingent power relations that emerge from the centrality of fossil fuels to the production and reproduction of capitalist social relations, while investigating the extent to which a transition to ‘alternative’ energies necessarily accompany transformations in the social and political contingencies of capitalism.


  • ·         Explore the manner in which past and present energy flows in society have been embedded in a wide range of spatial formations and relations;

    ·         Question established binaries between energy production and consumption practices, and large vs. small-scale forms of energy supply;

    ·         Investigate some of the key scientific and political controversies associated with contemporary patterns of energy provision and demand; 

    ·         Uncover the tensions between policies aimed at promoting sustainable energy use on the one hand, and those aiming to address social equity, on the other;

    ·         Highlight the role of space and place in the movement towards a ‘greener’ energy future;

    ·         Challenge the suggestion that sustainable energy policies can be delivered solely via a combination of technical and behavioural measures.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, students should be able to:

·         Outline the reasons, character and consequences of the main social, environmental and political issues arising from the production and consumption of energy across the world;

·         Demonstrate a critical understanding of the relations between capitalism and global energy systems and practices;

·         Apply this knowledge to a topical energy related news item.


Preliminary Course Structure

·         WEEK 1: Energy flows and debates: key concepts

·         WEEK 2: Energy transitions

·         WEEK 3: Geographies of energy consumption

·         WEEK 4: Energy security and geopolitics

·         WEEK 5: Community, energy and justice

·         WEEK 6: Reading week

·         WEEK 7: Fuel poverty and energy vulnerability

·         WEEK 8: Energy efficiency vs. justice: Grenfell Tower fire

·         WEEK 9: Reading week

·         WEEK 10: Contested energy landscapes: myths, perceptions, realities

·         WEEK 11: Contested geographies of fuelwood exploitation

·         WEEK 12: Retrofitting the city


Teaching and learning methods

The unit is delivered through lectures, seminars and students readings of key texts. By using a range of teaching methods, we aim to provide inclusive spaces where knowledge is co-produced by teachers and learners.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During the course unit, students will be encouraged to develop:

  • Problem-solving and enquiry-based learning skills;
  • Critical thinking and reflection;
  • Motivation and self-directed learning;
  • An ability to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of different theories and explanations;
  • An ability to relate theoretical arguments with empirical evidence, including the construction and execution of applied research;
  • An ability to connect theory, politics and policy;
  • Basic technical and quantitative skills relating to energy measurement and audits;
  • An awareness and application of the role of the student as a researcher, learning partner, university ambassador, local/global citizen, and agent of societal change.

Assessment methods

Undergraduate (3rd year) students:

60% of the final course mark is based on an exam with 6 questions. Students should choose and answer two questions from the given 6 questions.

The remaining 40% is based on an individual 1500 word essay. The aim of the short essay is to use theory in an analysis of topical, everyday energy issues. Students need to choose one of the energy concepts discussed in class and seminars, and use it to explore an energy related news item of their choice.


Postgraduate students:

100% of the final course mark is based on a 3000 word essay. 

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided via:

·                     Extensive verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures;

·                     Verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours;

·                     Detailed verbal feedback on the coursework assignment;

·                     Verbal feedback on examinations provided in academic advisor meetings.

Recommended reading

Bridge, G., Bouzarovski, S., Bradshaw, M., Eyre, N., 2013. Geographies of energy transition: Space, place and the low-carbon economy. Energy Policy 53, 331–340.

Bridge G. and LeBillon P. 2012. Oil. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Bouzarovski, S., and Petrova, S. 2015. A global perspective on domestic energy deprivation: Overcoming the energy poverty-fuel poverty binary. Energy Research and Social Science 10, 31-40.

Bouzarovski et al. (ed.) 2017. The Routledge Research Companion to Energy Geographies. Routledge, London.

Calvert, K., 2015. From “energy geography” to “energy geographies” Perspectives on a fertile academic borderland. Progress in Human Geography DOI:0309132514566343.

Huber, M. T. 2013. Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Mitchell, K. 2009. The Political Economy of Sustainable Energy. Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Pasqualetti, M. 2011. Opposing Wind Energy Landscapes: A Search for Common Cause. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101 (4), 907-917

Petrova, S., 2014. Contesting forest neoliberalization: Recombinant geographies of “illegal” logging in the Balkans. Geoforum 55, 13–21.

Petrova, S., Posová, D., House, A., & Sýkora, L. 2013. Discursive Framings of Low Carbon Urban Transitions: The Contested Geographies of 'Satellite Settlements' in the Czech Republic. Urban Studies 50(7), 1439-1455.

Smil V. 1994. Energy in World History. Westview Press, Boulde.

Smil V. 2003. Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties. MIT Press, Cambridge.

Walker G, Simcock N and Day R 2016. Necessary energy uses and a minimum living standard in the United Kingdom: energy justice or escalating expectations? Energy Research & Social Science, 18, 129-138. 


Key Journals

Energy Policy

Energy Research and Social Science

Environment and Planning A

Annals of the American Association of Geographers

Transactions of the IBG



Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Saska Petrova Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Geography students will have study weeks in weeks 6 and 9




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