PhD position in Energy Systems Optimization (1.0 FTE)

PhD position in Energy Systems Optimization (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
5 Jul 31 Aug Utrecht

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The job opening is for a full time PhD position at the Energy & Resources group of the department of Sustainable Development at the Faculty of Geosciences.

Job description

The job opening is for a full time PhD position at the Energy & Resources group of the department of Sustainable Development at the Faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University. This PhD position is part of a larger research project – Next Generation Sector Coupling Models for Optimal Investments and Operation (NextGenOpt) – which is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) within the Energy System Integration, Towards Futureproof, Affordable and Reliable Energy Systems (ESI-FAR) call.
Accordingly, the candidate will be embedded in an interdisciplinary team consisting of engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians from TNO, Utrecht University, TU Delft, and industry partners. The candidate will closely cooperate with the other project team members and spend part of the research time at TNO (flexible internship).

Societal relevance: The transition to a CO2 net-zero society requires a major rethinking of the energy system that calls for coordination among the different sectors. In this context, supporting investment and operation decisions requires reliable and accurate large-scale optimization models that include electricity, heat and (green) hydrogen networks, and their associated demand, supply, and flexibility properties. However, current models for large-scale energy systems are very simplistic and therefore not reliable for decision-making. Conversely, the quality of sector-specific small-scale models has evolved considerably, but real-life instances of these models are computationally very demanding and cannot be easily scaled to the required size.

Research focus: Overall, the NextGenOpt research project aims at combining different sector-specific models into a single computational tool that integrates hydrogen, heat and electricity systems, and their associated generation, demand, conversion and storage technologies. This will be done by bringing together state-of-the-art understanding of mathematical modeling of power systems with energy system components and state-of-the-art optimization and machine learning techniques. With this goal in mind, this PhD will specifically work on improving cross-sectorial energy systems modeling and on testing the new framework on local, regional and national case studies. You will investigate inter- and intra-grids dependencies to properly describe heat and hydrogen networks within a mixed-integer linear programming environment while retaining the more mature description of the electricity grid. You will investigate the possibility of using iterative design to construct aggregate technology models, where key constraints are identified and embedded in simplified, yet reliable, models. Finally, you will investigate how the model granularity can be flexibly selected depending on the problem at hand, and how this can be used to reconcile (inter)national case studies with those involving municipalities and provinces. Multiscale modeling, time-series analysis, and other decomposition methods will be used to iterate between long-term large-scale and short-term small-scale perspectives.
During your PhD journey you will be supervised by Prof. Madeleine Gibescu (promotor) and Dr. Matteo Gazzani (co-promotor).


Utrecht University


The ideal candidate should possess excellent programming and mathematical skills, coupled with a good understanding of thermodynamics, energy conversion technologies and energy networks. The candidate should therefore have a Master’s degree in Engineering (possibly Chemical, Mechanical, Energy or Electrical), or Applied Physics, with modelling experience. Knowledge of mixed-integer linear programming, machine learning, working with large data sets, and languages such as GAMS, AIMMS, Matlab, Julia or Python are a plus.

Conditions of employment

You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,395 in the first year and €3,061 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). More information about working at Utrecht University can be found here.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development has been evaluated in a 2014 international review as the highest ranked research institute in environmental and sustainability sciences in the Netherlands. Since then, the institute has intensified its efforts in maintaining its leading position by investing in numerous faculty appointments and developing new, internationally oriented teaching and research programmes. Within the Sustainable Development department, the Energy & Resources group focuses on transitioning to a sustainable energy and resource system, with special attention to integrating the efficient use of energy and resources with renewable energy supply solutions, at various scales. In the E&R group the challenges are analyzed in a variety of dimensions: from fundamental material sciences, technology assessment, to governance, and combining bottom-up and top down approaches. The group has a strong track record in areas such as energy efficiency, sustainable biobased production of energy and materials, low-carbon energy solutions (including wind, photovoltaics, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage), and process and energy system modelling.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1159856



Domplein 29, 3512 JE, Utrecht

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