Environmental and Energy Economics

The Master of Commerce by coursework and research report in the field of Environmental and Energy Economics aims to train economists with a set of skills to be used in the applied economic analysis that inform environmental and energy policies aimed at remedying market failures in these sectors.


In recent decades, environmental economics have increasingly become critically important to analyse and understand environmental, energy and climate problems and to offer the basis for designing policy solutions. Particularly, recent years have seen a proliferation of policy interest to change energy systems from being centralized and carbon intensive to decentralized and low carbon in keeping with the goals set out by the Paris Agreement of limiting global mean surface temperature rise to below 2 °C. At the same time, new energy markets have been developing, which has shifted environmental regulations focus to increasingly targeting the energy sectors. These developments call for a critical understanding of the fundamentals of how these markets operate so that optimal energy policy can be designed. Knowledge of energy economics thus, plays a critical role in meeting this demand.

The field of Environmental and Energy Economics is designed to provide a thorough understanding of economics and policies associated with climate change and broader foundation of applied microeconomics in energy, environmental and natural resources. More specifically, it applies microeconomics theory and quantitative methods to rigorously examine contemporary environmental, climate, natural resources and energy problems. 

Career Opportunities

There is good reason to believe that the demand for training in environmental, resource and energy economics is high in South Africa, considering the apparent shortage of trained manpower in these fields. Graduate level training in this field is uncommon across the African continent. Currently, only a few South African Universities offer training in these fields, but commonly as an elective course only rather than as a specialization field. And yet, the plethora of environmental problems and the government’s and private sector’s  commitments to overcome them suggests the unmet demand of the expertise in these fields.


This coursework Masters programme is structured as a one-year full-time or a two-year part-time qualification. The programme comprises a research report together with a total of  six courses, including five compulsory courses and one elective.

Compulsory courses:

Energy Economics [15 credits]

This course deals with theoretical and empirical energy topics. It provides students with the necessary knowledge and skills to understand energy supply; energy demand; environmental consequences of energy consumption and production; the organization of energy markets; energy commodities; market integration and price transmission; efficiency; distributional and environmental consequences of energy policies; energy poverty; energy and the macroeconomy; behavioral interventions to encourage energy efficiency, and climate change policies. The course also explores forces that drive economic agent’s decisions of supplying, converting, transporting, and using energy resources, and disposing of residual, evaluate whether energy market structures and regulatory regimes can be defended on efficiency, sustainability, and equity grounds, and introduces students to the macroeconomic consequences of shocks in energy sectors.

Environmental Economics and Policy [15 credits]

This course covers key applications of microeconomics theory and quantitative methods that help rigorously examine contemporary environmental, climate change, and natural resources problems. The course comprises of three parts. The first consists of the following topics: economy-environment interactions, sustainable development, market failures, pollution targets and pollution control, environmental policy instruments and the political economy of environmental policy. The second part covers market and non-market techniques of valuation of natural resources and environmental services and/or disservices, and application of non-market valuation estimate for cost-benefit analysis and environmental policy/project design. The third part briefly introduces students to behavioral field experiments and programme evaluations in environmental economics.

Discrete Choice Modelling [15 credits]

The course comprises the study of the microeconomic theoretical basis of the random utility maximization model (RUM) and non-RUM behavioural decision rules including reference-dependent preference, random regret minimization (RMM) and elimination by aspect (EBA) models. The course presents a thorough and a step-by-step guide to all stages in the design of discrete choice surveys, including attribute and its level selection, experimental design, survey design and implementation, data management, and data analysis and interpretation. The econometric part of the course covers major discrete choice econometrics, including binary choice models and multinomial outcome models. The course comprises the application of these techniques using Stata or R computer software and datasets employed in the literature.

Research Report in Environmental and Energy Economics [90 credits]

The course requires the candidate to identify a suitable research topic in the domain of Environmental, Resource and Energy  Economics and to develop a research proposal with the support of a dedicated supervisor(s) for approval by the School. Based on this research proposal, the candidate is required to undertake an independent piece of economic research that makes a contribution to the relevant field of study.

In addition, the candidate must complete the following courses:

Microeconomics A and Applied Econometrics [15 credits each]

In addition, candidates choose one module from the following electives:

Development, Advanced Institutional Economics, Public Economics, Resource Economics, Climate Change Economics [15 credits].

Entry Requirements

Bachelor of Commerce with Honours in the field of Economics or Bachelor of Science with Honours in the field of Agricultural Economics or an equivalent and must have achieved an average of at least 65% to be considered.

University Application Process

  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at www.wits.ac.za/askwits.

University Fees and Funding

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.