PhD Position design anthropology of local energy markets: Social governance and inclusion

PhD Position design anthropology of local energy markets: Social governance and inclusion

Published Deadline Location
3 Jun 21 Jun Delft

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Do you want to apply your anthropological knowledge to the challenges of the energy transition, where often the human and the social dimensions remain unaddressed?

Job description

The Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is hiring a doctoral candidate on a challenging topic of social governance and inclusion in a local energy market. This fully-funded and four-year PhD position is part of the LIFE (Local Inclusive Future Energy City Platform) project.

The LIFE project is interdisciplinary and aims to design and implement a district-scale smart energy management platform that enables energy governance by the local stakeholders. This LIFE platform will include a local energy market (LEM) that will facilitate peer-to-peer energy exchanges. Your Ph.D. research will address a crucial social challenge — inclusion and participation of stakeholders, such as local communities and households in local energy governance — at the heart of the project.

The field location of the LIFE project is the ArenApoort urban district, situated in Amsterdam-Southeast, The Netherlands. The ArenApoort comprises an intriguing mix of local energy producers and consumers ranging from high-end office buildings to social housing complexes. On the one hand, large businesses and offices are the stakeholders of the LIFE platform. On the other hand, 5000 homes of lower-income homeowners and local communities are desired participants in the local energy governance of the LIFE platform. These contrasting stakeholders have different needs, preferences, and values that require a nuanced understanding and embedding in the platform's design right from the onset.

As a PhD candidate, you will take an anthropological perspective to research the broad theme of social governance and inclusion in a LEM. Your doctoral research will critically engage with the following interconnected challenges:

  1. tensions and conflicts in needs, preferences, and values of stakeholders
  2. forms of social interactions and relations between stakeholders desired and required for local energy governance
  3. inclusion and participation of end-users, especially those who are at the risk of energy poverty
  4. opportunities for plural economic modes of (monetary and non-monetary) 'exchanges' of energy for addressing issues of inclusion and governance.

You will conduct an ethnography of these challenges and issues. Your supervisory team will support you to develop your research direction within these challenges. The LIFE project will engage with ArenApoort as a 'living lab' where functional prototypes of the LIFE platforms will be iteratively installed and investigated. The prototypes will also serve as a vehicle for your research as the social practices and discussions emerging with the local use of the prototypes will become the object of your ethnographic inquiry. This interdisciplinary research approach brings together perspectives from anthropology and design research, which will be used to develop both a critical understanding of the topic and empirically explore novel concepts and ideas identified in the study.

You will be jointly supervised by Prof. David V. Keyson, Prof. Bregje van Eekelen, and Dr. Abhigyan Singh. As members of the leading international faculty in design research, we are building expertise in the emerging domain of design anthropology.

Your ethnographic research will be facilitated by the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute). You will be expected to assist in teaching activities related to your expertise. You will have plenty of opportunities to collaborate with industrial partners (Alliander and Spectral Energy), societal partner (Stichting CoForce), as well as academics from other disciplines (law and power engineering).


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)



  • You are interested in working at the intersection of social sciences and design.
  • You have experience in ethnographic research.
  • You have completed a master's degree in social sciences (anthropology, sociology, urban studies, science and technology studies, or other related fields) or design (design anthropology, participatory design, social design or other associated areas). 
  • You have an interest in exploring the social dimension of the energy transition.
  • You have an interest and ability to work in interdisciplinary teams.
  • You have an excellent command of English (written and oral).
  • You have a good command of spoken Dutch.


  • Educational backgrounds in both social science and design.
  • Experience with design anthropology.
  • Experience in the field of energy transition or sustainability in the built environment.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 48 maanden.

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.


Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context. At TU Delft we embrace diversity and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact! 


Faculty Industrial Design Engineering

Matching the evolution of people with the speed of the revolution of technology. This is the focus of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE). Delft designers act as a bridge between advances in technology and the needs of people, organisations and society to create products, services and systems with purpose.

IDE is a leader in design research across the application areas of mobility, sustainability and health, as well as its development of design tools and methods. A 350-strong research team and over 2,000 students work together in our inspiring hall, labs and studios.

In close cooperation with industry, the public sector and NGOs we rehearse possible futures in research and education to design for a complex future.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD01174


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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