Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module LAW46215: Renewable Energy Law

Department: Law

LAW46215: Renewable Energy Law

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce challenges involved in supporting the growth of energy production and consumption from renewable sources
  • To introduce ways in which law is used to respond to these challenges at national, regional and international levels.


  • Topics examined each year may include:
  • Renewable energy in international law
  • Policy and legal targets for renewable energy growth & decarbonisation
  • Financing renewable electricity development
  • Integrating renewable electricity into transmission and distribution networks
  • Planning, public opposition and renewable energy
  • Decarbonising transport and heating
  • Offshore renewable electricity generation and transmission
  • Community-level renewable energy
  • Access to energy and off-grid renewable electricity
  • Seminars will explore needs and challenges associated with renewable energy development which make legal intervention necessary. Understanding the needs and challenges provides a basis for critical analysis of laws developed in response to them. Seminars will go on to consider ways in which law is used to meet needs and address challenges. Examples of laws from the UK, the EU (and its Member States), the US and developing states will be used to illustrate current uses of law to enable renewable energy development. The efficacy of current legal approaches for supporting the growth of the renewables sectors will be examined critically by referring back to needs and problems that laws are intended to tackle. Consideration will be given to alternative ways in which pro-renewables law could be used when existing approaches are found to be deficient.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should have knowledge of:
  • Issues confronting and problems constraining the growth of renewable energy and its displacement of fossil fuel energy;
  • Ways in which law is used to respond to these issues and problems at national, regional and international levels.
  • The needs and challenges which make legal intervention necessary and the types of legal intervention required to address them of which students should have knowledge at the course’s conclusion include:
  • Systemic challenges with introducing renewable energy to fossil fuel dominated energy systems and uses of targets and framing laws for growth in renewable energy production and consumption to engender systemic change
  • Difficulties for renewable energy developers with securing affordable financial support for projects and uses of investment and operating support schemes by governments to assist them with accessing funds where they would not otherwise be available
  • Constraints on the growth of renewable power and renewable gases created by capacity and operational issues with integrating them into cable and pipeline networks and levels of legal response ranging from duties to modify existing operating practices to requirements for major network modification.
  • Reasons for public opposition to renewable energy development and positive and negative features of currently favoured legal responses to them such as compensating affected individuals and community benefits.
  • Particular challenges with decarbonising transport (bioenergy and unsustainability, lack of infrastructure, vehicle and fuel costs) and strengths and weaknesses of widely employed legal approaches to promoting renewable energy transportation
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Review laws enacted to promote renewable energy on an informed basis
  • Identify and assess the merits of different types of legal response to requirements for legal intervention made necessary by pro-renewables policies
  • Consider critically the adequacy of legal approaches employed to address constraints on renewable energy development
Key Skills:
  • The course will:
  • Assist with strengthening the legal analytical faculties and powers of expression of students both orally and in writing
  • Enhance students’ abilities to critically assess the adequacy of laws for achieving policy goals.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students will be given reading to undertake, questions to answer and tasks to perform in advance of each seminar.
  • Course seminars will offer opportunities to:
  • examine relevant issues affecting and constraints on the growth of renewable energy production and consumption;
  • consider how law can be applied to address these;
  • present case studies,to illustrate the role of law in enabling renewable energy growth as part of a low carbon energy transition; and
  • critically assess the effectiveness of legal responses for tackling issues and constraints Undertaking the formative and summative assessments will enable students to test their knowledge and understanding of topics covered in the course and to enhance them by personal reading and research.
  • Feedback from formative and summative assessments will aid students with improving their abilities to critically analyse law, undertake research with a view to supporting such analysis

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Weekly 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading Reading and performing tasks/answering questions for each seminar 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay – a choice of summative essay titles will be provided 3,000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One 1500 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University