EME 803
Applied Energy Policy

EME 803 Syllabus


EME 803 - Applied Energy Policy, Fall 2023

It's your responsibility to read this entire document, go through the course Orientation, and anything linked from here. Together these materials serve as our course contract and help us manage our expectations for how the course will unfold over the semester.

Erich Schienke
Assistant Teaching Professor
Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

Office Hours: online, by appointment, via Zoom or phone

Contacting your instructor: Rather than e-mailing questions directly to me, I encourage you post any question which you would raise your hand to ask in a traditional class to the applicable Yellowdig Topic. Asking questions on our forums can benefit all students in that everyone will see the discussions and answers regarding class questions. 

For questions that are more personal in nature, please contact me through the course e-mail system in Canvas.

NOTE: I will do my best to read and respond to e-mail and discussion forums at least once per day during the workweek (Monday through Friday) and as time permits on weekends (though please don't depend on this). All assignment due dates/deadlines are in Eastern US time.

Course Overview


This course provides students with an in-depth exploration of energy policy development, implementation, and assessment at multiple governmental and corporate scales, with emphasis on energy market impacts and environmental implications. 


This course is available to graduate students in the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems MPS.

EME 803 is structured to provide students with the expertise necessary to identify energy policy needs, argue for policy alternatives, and evaluate energy policy. Emphasis on tailoring energy policy to meet not just economic goals but, also environmental and social goals creates a global perspective from which students learn to approach energy policy challenges. Students will read across the energy policy literature, via the journal Energy Policy, and become highly proficient in evaluating and composing literature reviews. Because the demand for highly analytical individuals is so great among energy professionals, this course will force students to think critically about these issues and really explore the finer nuances of economic and environmental implications of energy policy language. Asking students to evaluate the interplay between policy decisions, environmental outcomes, and energy markets will require students to become conversant in diverse, industry-relevant topics that will prepare them for careers in management surrounding issues of sustainability and energy resources.

What I Expect of You

  • Time:  On average, most students spend eight to ten hours per week working on course assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your prior experience with the energy topics we're covering and your familiarity with online classes.
  • Effort:  I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. This is no different from a traditional face-to-face class in that how much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to engage both your classmates and me throughout the course.  Each module, you'll be tasked with reading assignments which form the cornerstone of our discussion-based assignments on Yellowdig. You will be using articles drawn only from the journal Energy Policy. As graduate students at Penn State, it's imperative you become comfortable with how to navigate professional research articles in journals.  

What You Can Expect of Me

  • Time: I'll be working to ensure that you receive your feedback in a timely manner so that we can apply it to the improvement of future submissions. You can expect me to grade and provide you feedback no later than one week after an assignment has been submitted.
  • Effort: I'll be doing my best to give you thorough, substantive, and encouraging feedback on all of your assignments. Once you get feedback from me, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns. I want us to work together throughout the semester to build your understanding of the course content.

We are using an online learning environment for this course, and, as such, my 'office' is also online. Please feel free to contact me directly with questions, and I will respond to you within 24 hours. If it is something that is more easily addressed through an online meeting, please get in touch with me, and we can arrange a time to talk that works well for both of us. If I am going to be out of touch for a while, I will let you know ahead of time.

Course Goals and Outcomes

At the successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • From the discussions conducted on Yellowdig, you will develop your abilities to: critically assess and discuss energy policy literature, have civil discourse on politically controversial topics concerning energy and its applications; learn from and inform your peers on topics and concepts of collective interest; and, collaborate on surveying a literature with your peers.
  • From the literature review assignments, you will improve your capacities to: determine the legitimacy of things you read, data you see, and conclusions drawn from research; complete a thorough academic literature search and literature review for a given energy policy topic; and, evaluate across scholarly articles for common themes, complementary findings, and ongoing disagreements within fields of study in energy policy. 

Specific learning objectives for each lesson and project are detailed within each lesson.

Required Course Materials

There is no textbook for you to buy for this course. All necessary materials are presented online through Canvas, or are available through the Penn State Libraries. In order to access all materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk.

For each of the seven review modules you will be assigned three articles, and you will be required to choose three articles of your own directive from the Elsevier journal Energy Policy(The International Journal of the Political, Economic, Planning, Environmental and Social Aspects of Energy.) 

The journal can be accessed via Penn State Libraries here: Energy Policy on ScienceDirect through Penn State Libraries.

"Energy Policy is an international peer-reviewed journal addressing the policy implications of energy supply and use from their economic, social, planning and environmental aspects. Papers may cover global, regional, national, or even local topics that are of wider policy significance, and of interest to international agencies, governments, public and private sector entities, local communities and non-governmental organizations. Within this broad spectrum, topics of particular interest include energy and environmental regulation, energy supply security, the quality and efficiency of energy services, the effectiveness of market-based approaches and/or governmental interventions, technological innovation and diffusion, and voluntary initiatives where the broader policy implications can be recognized. Policy prescriptions are required to be supported by rigorous analysis and balanced appraisal." from Energy Policy aims and scope.


Assignments and Grading

The Canvas grade book will be updated throughout the course. Canvas also allows you to enter hypothetical grades on remaining assignments to get an idea of likely course grade outcomes using the What If grading feature. If you have any questions about a grade you've received on an assignment, contact the instructor via Canvas Inbox.

For all assignments in this course, a grading rubric is employed. Grading rubrics are useful tools, particularly in a course where so much of the assessment is based on open-ended writing assignments (as opposed to standard multiple choice questions or something to that effect). You can visit the rubric as you work on your assignment to ensure that your submission adequately addresses the criteria on which it will be assessed.

  1. 8 Bi-weekly Discussion Activities (50%)
  2. 5 out of 7 Literature Reviews (50%)

Discussion Activities

So, imagine us as a class all standing in the middle of a plateau, where that plateau represents just about everything we currently know about a particular discipline or set of issues, like Energy Policy. Now, imagine us starting to all walk in different directions out from the middle of that plateau to find the edges... places where the plateau either drops off abruptly or runs us into a fence that keeps us from seeing or knowing more about things like the future of Energy Policy. Now, imagine us all coming back to the center to describe to each other the cliffs and fences that we individually encountered on our trek out to find the limits of the plateau.

Getting together and describing the limits that we encountered to each other is precisely the point of why discussions are so important in a good graduate seminar. Such an opportunity allows us to both collectively map the territory of the plateau as well as find the limits and possible directions for either expanding the territory of the plateau. In this case, the plateau is everything about Energy Policy, the fences are barriers to further integration of Energy Policy to other disciplines, and the cliffs are where knowledge needs to be further built out, researched, discovered, or otherwise defined. The main point here is that doing this collaboratively and together, where we teach each other, allows us to map out these epistemic spaces and their limits in a manner that saves us, as individual inquirers, a lot of time and energy. (While a whole other matter, this is essentially how we develop objective clusters within fields of knowledge.) 

Still, you may be asking yourself... why are discussions so important that they count for half of our grade in this course? Because, I want you to really value what you can teach each other here, both about the existing state of knowledge about Energy Policy and where it still needs to go. 

The Yellowdig platform was chosen for implementing seminar discussions in this course because it allows us to break from a more traditional linear discussion format which results in the typical one post/two comments format that lead to a bit of a death spiral where less is read and even less is communicated as the semester progresses.  The point of using the Yellowdig platform in this course is to increase both quality and quantity of posts and interactions, which are crucial in enhancing our capacity to learn from each other.

Your goal is to earn 15000 points between when point earning starts on the first day of class and ends on the last.

Here are some ways you can earn points in your community:

YELLOWDIG Point Earning Rule


Creating a new Post with minimum 100 words 280
Commenting on another user's Post with minimum 35 words 210
Receiving a Comment from another user 70
Receiving a Reaction from another user 55

I will also be awarding “Accolades” to good posts and comments, so keep an eye out for the badges!

Literature Reviews

A literature review is a section of a research paper that clearly defines the context of the topic of the research, provides an evaluation of the research that has already been conducted on the topic, primary and secondary findings across the previous research, and the questions that still remain that previous research has either not addressed or findings that have not been able to be agreed upon across the research. 

Why is learning how to write literature reviews important to professionals and not just academics? Because one of the main objectives of the RESS Program is to teach you how to manage expertise in renewable energy and sustainability. Much of the information that you are going to encounter is typically going to come from technical and academic journals (primary sources) or come from journalists who have read and summarized those technical and academic reports (secondary sources). For your work in the modules, you will only be working with primary sources and will be writing your own literature reviews. The main objectives of all of this are 1) to help you practice reviewing a body of technical knowledge thoroughly and quickly, and, 2) to be able to quickly tell the difference between plausible arguments and bullshit, i.e. you're going to build up your bullshit detecting skills. 

You will be writing five literature reviews for this course (you will be allowed to skip twi of the seven.) Each literature review will consist of six primary sources, three of which you will read the first week of modules one through seven, and three articles which you identify as relevant to the review topic you would like to write about. Each literature review will be worth 3000 points, for a total of 15000 points across the five completed reviews.

Your literature reviews will be graded according to whether and to what degree the following components are incorporated. (3000 pts total)

  • A description of coherent organizing theme(s) that tie(s) the cluster of articles together, either in their similarities and or oppositions. (700 pts)
  • A description of each of the articles' premises, topics, methods, and findings. (700 pts) 
  • The reasoning and rationale for why you choose the cluster of articles. (Yes, three were chosen for you, but describe the choice for all six.) Also, don't use terms like "I chose these articles..." rather, say things "this review of the following articles speaks to the following..." (350 pts)
  • A summary of how the findings across the cluster of articles agree and/or disagree with each other. (350 pts)
  • How the articles inform us about a broader set of issues, i.e. what it implies about each of the seven Module topics, like Energy Policy, Primary Energy Sources, etc. (300 pts)
  • What the cluster tells us about next steps for research and unanswered questions. (300 pts)
  • And, a properly formatted and cited list of resources at the end of the paper. (300 pts)

There is an expectation that you will improve over time. I expect feedback given to be incorporated in future reviews and will deduct more points for those missing elements moving forward. That being said, I will also do my best to grade based on self-improvement over time rather than how well you've matched the best examples of the assignments submitted across all students.

Letter grades will be based on the following percentages (percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned by the student):

*Note: I do not round grades up. I do not curve grades. There is no extra credit.

Grading Scale
Grade Percent
A 93–100%
A- 90–92.99%
B+ 87–89.99%
B 83–86.99%
B- 80–82.99%
C+ 77–79.99%
C 70–76.99%
D 60–69.99%
F <60%

Class Support Services

Penn State Online offers online tutoring to World Campus students in math, writing, and some business classes. Tutoring and guided study groups for residential students are available through Penn State Learning.

EME 803 Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

It is your responsibility to be aware of deadlines for assignments for this course. You can also refer to the Calendar in Canvas for deadlines, and if you have any questions along the way, just ask.  Lessons open on Mondays and assignments are due the following Sundays at 11:59 pm. The course runs in Eastern time regardless of the time zone from which students participate in the class. You have an entire week to complete the readings and other associated activities. Anything not submitted by the assigned due date will be considered late. Please be advised that your weekly initial post to the discussion forum follows an intra-lesson deadline of Sunday nights at 11:59 pm to allow us the remainder of the lesson for discussion. 

Anything not submitted by the assigned due date will be considered late, and points can be deducted (see Course Policies for details).

There are two places for you to access our course schedule for this semester.

  1. On this page. The schedule below gives you a general week-by-week schedule.
  2. Via the Calendar in Canvas. The Calendar in Canvas will have specific lesson time frames and assignment due dates.

If you notice any inconsistencies or conflicting information, let me know and I'll clarify.

(August 21:

  • Complete all orientation-related tasks in Canvas.
Lesson 1: Energy Policy
(August 21 - September 3)
  • Read all course content and assigned external readings.
  • Discussion Activity (week one)
  • Literature Review (week 2)

Lesson 2: Primary Energy Resources
(September 4 - 17)

  • Read all course content and assigned external readings.
  • Discussion Activity (week one)
  • Literature Review (week 2)
Lesson 3: Technological Change
(September 18 - October 2)
  • Read all course content and assigned external readings.
  • Discussion Activity (week one)
  • Literature Review (week 2)
Lesson 4: Energy and Society
(October 3 - 15)
  • Read all course content and assigned external readings.
  • Discussion Activity (week one)
  • Literature Review (week 2)
Lesson 5: Energy and the Environment
(October 16 - 30)
  • Read all course content and assigned external readings.
  • Discussion Activity (week one)
  • Literature Review (week 2)
Lesson 6: Energy-Use and End-Use Technologies
  • Read all course content and assigned external readings.
  • Discussion Activity (week one)
  • Literature Review (week 2)
Lesson 7: Energy Markets, Pricing, Investment, Financing, and Other Economic Issues
(November 13 - December 3)
  • Read all course content and assigned external readings.
  • Discussion Activity (week one)
  • Literature Review (week 2)
  • (Note, includes Thanksgiving break)
Lesson 8: Closing Arguments and Reflections
(December 4 - 11)
  • Final Discussion Activity and Reflection. 

Course Policies

Late work

One of the many advantages to taking courses online is that it affords you a degree of flexibility in when and how you complete your assignments that might be more challenging to achieve in a face-to-face classroom setting. However, taking courses online does not mean that you've got the autonomy to do and submit the work when you wish.

In order for us to move through the material as a group, it's important that each of you complete your assignments on time. Late is defined as submitted anytime after 11:59 pm on Wednesday on which the assignment is due. This means if you procrastinate and turn it in at 12:05 am on Monday morning, it is late.

  • Assignments can be assessed a 10% penalty for each 24 hour period late they are (i.e., 12:00 am on Monday through 11:59 pm on Monday is 10% and so on).

Life happens. Inevitably, you will have some legitimate situation or emergency arise during the semester that is going to hinder your ability to complete work on time. You should always communicate these occurrences to your instructor. It takes but a minute to call or e-mail and give me a courtesy heads up. I'm much more willing to work with you if I know what's going on. Falling off the radar for an extended period of time and then later requesting additional time retroactively is not the appropriate way to communicate a problem with your instructor. Let me know what's happening when it's happening; that gives me the best chance of helping you out. 

Procrastination doesn't pay - Technology is far from perfect, and, generally, it only fails when you really need it to work. If you play with fire and wait until the very last second to attempt to submit your work in Canvas, you may get burned. This is an easy enough problem for us to avoid - you have a full week to complete your work, so don't wait until that last second to turn it in.

Citation and Reference Style

I cannot overemphasize the importance of academic integrity. DO NOT copy and paste from unreferenced sources. Without exception: if you use a quotation from any source, as part of any submitted assignment, the quote must be clearly noted with quotation marks and properly cited in text and with a Works Cited.

I take violations of academic integrity very seriously in this class, and I will file an Academic Integrity Violation form with the College if you are found to be cheating in any way - whether that's sharing answers with a classmate, copying and pasting text and passing it off as your own, or anything else. It's simply not fair to the students who do their own work and do it well to tolerate cheating of any kind. As a Penn State student, it is your responsibility to understand the University's academic integrity policies.

It is important (not only in this course, but in all courses you take as well as professional documents you produce) to employ proper citation methods for the sources you utilize. Failure to do so reduces the credibility of your work at best and can lead to suspicion of intentional plagiarism at worst. We don't want either of those things to happen!

Resources for Citations and Reference Styles

This course requires you to use APA citation format. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue has an excellent resource for using APA style citations.  

Penn State Libraries also have many useful resources about citations if you need some help. And finally, you can check out Styles for Students - an excellent, in-depth tutorial of how and why we cite things. And, as always, just contact your instructor if you have any questions.

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the IT Service Desk (for World Campus students) or Penn State's IT Help Portal (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site, which means that your connection is encrypted. We do, however, link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted. This is called mixed content. By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed. Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

This course follows the procedures for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training for Students

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency campus disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision-making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If, for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated to you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.