Energy Decarbonization Pathways and Tools

A four-week online course that explores the fundamental principles, mathematical concepts, and interconnections driving global clean energy transitions.

Course level: Introductory

About this course

This course will delve into the foundational principles and terminology of clean energy transitions and will equip you with essential quantitative tools required to play a role in these transitions.

The course begins by examining the fundamental need to electrify everything, providing examples for organizations across sectors. You’ll learn how the grid works and what policies, regulations, and behaviors best support a clean and resilient grid. Along the way, we will demystify the many units used across the energy sector, including megawatts, joules, British thermal units, kilowatt-hours, amps, and volts.

You will then learn how to use quantitative techniques to help you make impactful data-driven energy decisions. We will also dig into various obstacles and opportunities that often come up in clean energy transitions. You’ll synthesize these learnings by creating an energy action plan relevant to your profession.

You will leave with the systems thinking skills to make informed energy decisions that are beneficial for business, the grid, and the climate while building a network of like-minded peers in the space.

Who is this program for?

Business professionals targeting clean energy

Product managers, software engineers, sales professionals, consultants, and others targeting, or are newly in, clean energy careers

Professionals who oversee energy usage

Energy analysts, energy specialists, energy consultants, sustainability managers, and others who help manage a company’s energy consumption, impacts, and costs

Traditional energy policy and regulatory specialists

Government relations specialists, energy policy advisors, energy regulatory consultants, energy compliance officers, and others seeking to navigate the clean energy landscape

What climate skills you'll learn

Analyze energy scenarios

Calculate opportunities, costs, and impacts related to clean energy transitions

Identify decarbonization potential

Uncover high-impact pathways to decarbonize energy systems

Detect transition constraints

Identify bottlenecks in the clean energy transition value chain

Systems thinking

Apply an overlapping system lens to understand the interconnectedness of policy, justice, technology, labor, and markets in any clean energy transition

event concluded

Demand Response as a Lever in Clean Electrical Grids

Join instructor and clean energy professional Zach Birnholz as he discusses how demand response (a voluntary shift in electricity use) works, how it can play a major role in supporting a clean electrical grid, and why it is an important part of our broad toolkit for decarbonizing the energy sector.

The difference

Live lab groups

You will meet weekly with the instructor and fellow learners to share perspectives

Skills-based learning

You will engage in individual real-world assignments to immediately apply the skills you’ve learned

Personalized attention

Meet with the instructor 1-on-1 and get individualized feedback on your assignments

Asynchronous and synchronous learning

Flexible learning options to fit your learning style

Meet the course creator

Zach Birnholz

Energy Expert

Zach Birnholz is dedicated to moving the needle on climate change by directly addressing its #1 contributor: our emissions from energy use. In his work in the distributed energy resources (DER) sector, he has enabled clean, demand-side assets to displace hundreds of megawatts of fossil fuel-generated power by enrolling large energy users such as Walmart into grid operators’ demand response programs. He holds a Master’s in Environmental Science and Engineering from Stanford University and, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, was on the team that turned Stanford’s introductory computer science class into a free online Python course for over 10,000 students (and 1,000 small-group instructors). Zach is also an instructor for’s Learning for Action course.

Course schedule

Week One: Clean energy landscape and energy lingo refresher
  • Readings/viewings: Energy forms, currencies, and units, global energy context, current trends with renewables, quantitative energy analysis skills
  • Readings/viewings: The case to electrify everything, opportunities and challenges with scaling the smart grid, the role of batteries, quantitative tools for power sector planning
  • Assignment: Assessment of your personal energy context as a tool for understanding energy impact areas and addressing energy misinformation
  • Readings/viewings: EVs and decarbonizing long-haul transport, heat pumps and other options for buildings, cleaning up industry: steel, cement, fertilizers, and plastics, applying a systems lens
    • Readings/viewings: Policy, regulation, and market design for enabling energy transitions, nuts and bolts of electricity rates and economics, politics and justice in energy (including equitable policies and supply chains), optional in-depth clean energy case studies
    • Assignment: Design an energy action plan for your workplace

Pricing and expected commitment

Our fellows say it best...

Erin Hemenway

"Energy Decarbonization Pathways and Tools is a practical and manageable course for busy people who may only be able to spare a few hours per week. The course is focused on a very practical area where nearly anyone can take what they've learned and start making positive changes in energy consumption in their own lives"

Energy Decarbonization Pathways and Tools graduate (USA)
Divyesh Tyagi

"If you are starting out and want to get inducted into climate change a wonderful set of mentors, trainers, content and community is waiting for you here at"

Consultant at ReHive (India)

Frequently asked questions

Future program dates will be announced soon.

Business professionals and policy/regulatory specialists who are seeking foundational knowledge on and looking to become part of the clean energy transitions. This course is a great starting point for those motivated to apply this knowledge in their own organizations, particularly to minimize their energy impacts and costs.

Some comfort with arithmetic and basic algebra will be helpful but is not required. We welcome participants from all backgrounds and regions of the world to participate.

This course differs from the energy section of the Learning for Action Program (LFA) in two main ways. Firstly, it emphasizes quantitative approaches to energy, enabling participants to support their energy decisions with concrete numbers. Secondly, its live sessions and assignments delve much deeper into topics briefly touched upon in LFA, such as understanding electrical grids, opportunities in demand response and smart grids, advancements in materials for EVs and batteries, and aligning electricity rate design with climate goals. Through the assignments, participants learn to identify specific energy-related opportunities and challenges in their professional context, combat misinformation, and work towards solutions.

Several organizations have learning or professional development budgets for their employees. We encourage you to enquire about and utilize this budget to attend the course. will help you get reimbursed for the course by providing an invoice, a certificate, and any other documentation you need. If you have approval from your company, we can also arrange for your company to pay directly.

We expect to run more cohorts given ongoing demand for this course. If you’re interested in taking the course, please add yourself to the waitlist.

Financial aid is not available for this course.

If you have a question about this course that isn’t covered in the FAQ, please email us at

Learn the skills to work on climate