PhD positions on legal aspects of the hydrogen economy (2.0 FTE)

PhD positions on legal aspects of the hydrogen economy (2.0 FTE)

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1 Feb 5 Apr Groningen

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The University of G

Job description

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, City of Talent. Quality has had top priority for four hundred years, and with success: the University is currently in or around the top 100 on several influential ranking lists.

The Faculty of Law ( is building on a longstanding tradition of four centuries. Its mission is to be an ambitious top-ranking faculty of law with both high-quality education and research, with a strong international orientation, firmly rooted in the North of The Netherlands.

The faculty creates and shares knowledge through outstanding education and research, benefitting society. With more than 4000 students and 350 staff the faculty is heavily involved in educating students, both Dutch and international. The faculty is a modern, broad and international institution, educating students to become forward-looking, articulate and independent lawyers.

All PhD students participate in the Groningen Graduate School of Law (GGSL - The GGSL organizes the education of Research Master students and PhD students in the Faculty of Law. The inspiring and stimulating research environment is evidenced by the last external research audit in 2017 that judged research of the faculty of outstanding quality and praised the GGSL for the way in which PhD students are supported and supervised from the start till the very end of the PhD.

THERESA is a project that integrates a consortium of universities made up of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain (coordinator), the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and the Eastern University of Finland. The three universities stand out for having Research Centres in the field of energy, environmental and sustainability law with a proven track record in these areas. Thanks to the long-standing collaboration between the three universities, THERESA DN proposes the first European doctoral programme for legal specialists in the field of the hydrogen economy. In the context of climate emergency and the socio-ecological transition of the Anthropocene, Green hydrogen is a promising energy carrier to facilitate the transition to an energy system based on renewable energies. Hydrogen can replace natural gas as a feedstock and help fossil-based economic sectors for which electrification is not possible, or excessively burdensome, to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the development of a hydrogen market is characterized by uncertainties and associated economic, societal and environmental risks. The few existing scholarly legal studies on this subject matter highlight the fragmentation of the regulatory framework applying to hydrogen. THERESA combines the focus on three specific themes of regulatory intervention in the hydrogen economy – 1) reducing sectoral fragmentation to spur socio-environmental sustainability; 2) enabling sustainable circular use of hydrogen; and 3) societal engagement in the hydrogen economy – with three methodological approaches – doctrinal constructivism, empirical legal research and legal comparativism – to advance legal knowledge and form the doctoral experts needed to contribute to the development of a hydrogen economy. THERESA encompasses a fully-fledged training programme offering substantive, theoretical, methodological, and transferable skills to Doctoral Candidates.

The findings of the other (PhD) researchers involved in this project are relevant for the legal research and, vice versa, the PhD candidate will need to explain intermediate results to the other researchers on a continuous basis.

The two PhD candidates hired under the leadership of the University of Groningen concerns the following aspects:

Project description:

1. Individual research project: “Citizen Empowerment in the Hydrogen Economy”

As part of the energy transition towards a low-carbon society, the shift to the production and use of hydrogen as an alternative to natural gas is simultaneously a technological, economic and social challenge. While the societal dimension of the energy transition recently gained attention in political and scientific debates, societal implications remain understudied for the specific case of hydrogen as discussion mainly focuses on the market. One of the core topics of the societal dimension of the energy transition in general, and thus also of the production and use of hydrogen, is the involvement of citizens. In order to explore governance structures which facilitate the participation of citizens in the development, production and use of hydrogen, this project focuses on two main dimensions of citizen empowerment. First, citizen empowerment can take place by means of procedural participation, i.e. public participation in decision-making. In this context, the project aims at unveiling what participatory frameworks best fit public preferences about partaking in decision-making in the hydrogen transition. While legal frameworks in the European Union have a common denominator formed by the Aarhus Convention 1998, national practices might differ. In this context, this project will combine the legal comparison of frameworks and practices in selected EU Member States with longitudinal studies on public preferences. The combination of these methods proves well suited to reveal synergies and mismatches between what the law prescribes and what people prefer. This will allow proposing strategies to enhance synergies and bypass mismatches to facilitate the societal dimension of the hydrogen transition. Second, citizen empowerment can take place by means of (joint) ownership and/or financial participation, for example via energy communities. Energy communities are conceptualised as a promising way to facilitate procedural and distributive justice in the energy sector. Fulfilling this potential, the legal framework needs to specify the governance, the activities, and the purpose of energy communities. So far, the focus of this exercise has been on the case of energy communities in the electricity sector. While this provides a basis for understanding the potential of energy communities for the empowerment of citizens in the energy sector from a legal perspective, it is further necessary to explore whether and how the concept of energy communities can be applied to the case of hydrogen projects. Existing research on legal frameworks for energy communities and real-life cases of energy communities can provide an overview of legal options and obstacles of citizen empowerment via energy communities. This overview can inform the design of a legal framework for energy communities in the context of the hydrogen transition. Together, the insights generated from this project will help foster scientific knowledge on citizen engagement and guide practitioners, civil servants and market players, working on the hydrogen transition.

2. Individual research project: “Hydrogen for a Sustainable Mobility”

The transport sector represents a quarter of Europe's total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and the international maritime sector is not even included in that count. `Greening` the transport sector is, hence, the next immediate frontier of EU policy– and `green´ hydrogen can play an essential role in this process, according to the EU Hydrogen Strategy and the `Fit for 55´-package, which are both part of the ‘European Green Deal’. The EU Hydrogen Strategy foresees the usage of ‘green’ hydrogen as a fuel primarily in the context of powertrains in heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks, buses, ships and aircrafts. These vehicles are difficult to run on electricity and hydrogen is seen as a short- to mid-term solution. This, in turn, also affects the need for the development of hydrogen fuelling infrastructure. Hydrogen refuelling stations will be needed for the uptake of hydrogen in road-traffic (which accounts for about 70% of GHG-emissions from the transport sector) to refuel hydrogen buses, trucks and (at smaller scale) cars. Besides the need for infrastructure, the fuels as such must change and `green´ hydrogen as a sustainable transport fuel is being promoted by (inter alia) the Fuel Quality Directive and the Directive on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (DAFI), as well as recent initiatives of 2021 under the `Fit for 55`-package, which aim particularly at aircrafts and ships. These are the revision to the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive to ensure aircraft and ships have access to clean energy supply in major ports and airports and other initiatives like ReFuelAviation and FuelEUMaritime, which outline more broadly how `green´ hydrogen can play a key role in future aviation and shipping. The project, hence, focusses on the identification of legal barriers in three areas of the transport sector: aviation, fuelling stations and shipping, as most immediate possibilities for hydrogen application in the transport sector. It will evaluate current and future legal initiatives and make suggestions for how these splintered approaches and initiatives could be streamlined and made more efficient. Moreover, it will present recommendations on how these transport sector activities in hydrogen can be better coupled to the legislative frameworks of other sectors, mainly energy and buildings, to achieve deep legal system integration. Given that EU transport legislation only provides a framework for Member States, the project will then also assess the transposition of the EU`s legal framework with a view to hydrogen in transport in the three Member States with the highest total GHG-emissions from the transport sector (Germany, France and Italy), by replying to functional legal comparative methodology. The project appraises the individual national legal frameworks for their ability to support hydrogen use in aviation, fuelling stations and shipping. By means of qualitative empirical methodology, based on semi-structured interviews, stakeholders from different transport sectors in different countries will provide deeper insights about the experienced legal barriers and possible solutions. The result shall be a distillate of legal best practices for hydrogen use in the transport sector. Overall, the project will help overcome legal barriers to a better integration of `green´ hydrogen in the transport sector in three ways: first it will make suggestions for streamlining legal initiatives in the EU, second it will make suggestions for an improved deep legal system integration of legislation affecting hydrogen in the transport sector with legislation of other sectors of hydrogen-application and third, it will uncover national best practices for hydrogen use in the transport sector and make them more easily accessible.


University of Groningen


We expect the candidate to have:

● completed or be close to completing a Master's degree in law
● ability to analyse and apply the relevant international, European and national regulatory framework of energy law, in connection with other environmental and social regulatory and policy aspects
● independence and availability to travel and settle in the countries of the universities participating in the project and to carry out international academic activities
● ability to understand and communicate in the language(s) relevant to the proposed doctoral research project
● eagerness to publish international articles and write a dissertation
● enthusiasm to work in an interdisciplinary research team
● demonstrable competences as conceptual capacity, presenting, monitoring, planning and organizing
● good social and communication skills
● excellent command of English and academic writing skills.


● be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers
● be of any nationality, but not having resided or carried out their main activity in the country of the host institution of the position they are applying to for more than 1 year in the past 3 years
● have not yet been awarded a PhD degree.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 36 month.

We offer you, following the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,960 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,247 gross per month in the third and final year for a full-time working week. Additional (family) allowances can be applicable depending on specific circumstances, in accordance with Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) conditions. The 30% tax scheme for extraterritorial costs may be applicable
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% year-end bonus
• a full-time position (1.0 FTE) for three years; Each successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of 18 months with the option of renewal for another 18 months. Prolongation of the appointment is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the appointment period is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and you will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty of Law.

Envisaged starting date: May 2023


  • PhD
  • Law
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • max. €3098 per month
  • University graduate
  • V23.0066


University of Groningen

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Broerstraat 5, 9712 CP, Groningen

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