PhD candidate (1,0 fte)

More than half of the world population is living in cities and this number will rise to more than 70% by the year 2050. The energy infrastructure of urban …

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Valkenburgerweg, Heerlen, Limburg
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 uur


More than half of the world population is living in cities and this number will rise to more than 70% by the year 2050. The energy infrastructure of urban areas presently is based on fossil fuels (natural gas, coal, oil). To assure future reliable access to affordable and clean energy it is, for geopolitical, financial and sustainability reasons, urgent to transform this system towards a more resilient system based on the use of renewable energy resources. A new infrastructure has to be build based on e.g. solar, wind and geothermal energy. In the new situation storage of heat and cold, and smart exchange of several kinds of energy carriers (among others: water and electricity) will become crucial. Roadmaps for stepwise transition towards such a system, securing energy delivery and guaranteeing payable prices have to be derived from thorough monitoring and evaluation of these processes. In this energy transition two major developments can be recognized: 1) the design of smart urban energy grids and 2) the emergence of self-empowered citizens (prosumers, energy cooperatives) generating their own energy demand. The first having a focus on centralized physical networks, while the second has a focus more on decentralized social networks. The performance of the future urban energy supply system will largely depend on how these physical and social networks interact. More understanding of this interaction is needed. Further research is also needed to determine the consequences of the centralized or decentralized approaches to energy supply for achieving or not achieving economies of scale. The PhD student works together with other PhD students in the new research program of the Open University “Safety in Urban Environment”.
Within this PhD research you will focus on future energy and demand and supply in urban areas. A successful energy transition can only be achieved if detailed information on past and future energy use and needs of consumers is known, if and how consumers behavior can be influenced for optimization, and how these transitions are depending on the social network.


  • You have a MSc in the field of environmental/sustainability science or a MSc that is closely related to this.
  • You are familiar with energy analysis and/or social-ecological systems.
  • You are familiar with (aspects of) social learning.
  • You have mapping and data visualization skills.
  • You have experience with statistical and spatial data analysis. You preferably have computing skills to implement novel models e.g. in R.
  • You are highly motivated to work in an interdisciplinary environment.
  • A strong interest in sustainability issues and interdisciplinary research is an asset.

Central will be the analysis of one or two cases of innovative energy supply systems in cities. You aim to extrapolate your findings from these cases to cities in general Central themes in this research are:

1) what are solutions to optimize the management of demand and supply of energy?
2) how can social learning networks be supported and used to achieve that consumers are willing to switch to a smart city grid system, are willing to share information on their energy needs, and are willing to change their behavior?
3) how can social learning networks be incorporated in a multi-scale model of the coupled physical and social system?
4) what are scaling trends in cities between city size, past energy transitions and the social network structure based on historical statistical data in relation to educational and economic status of the population
The focus of the research will be further tailored to the specific expertise that the PhD candidate possesses.


The PhD candidate will be appointed for a period of 12 months. The appointment will be extended to four years when progress and performance are good. The salary is € 2.222,- gross per month in the first year and is expected to increase to € 2.840,- in the fourth year, for a full time appointment, contingent on satisfactory performance.

The Open Universiteit provides good secondary benefits such as training, mobility, part-time employment and paid parental leave.

Temporary position for 4 years.

Additional information

A summary of the project proposal is available by e-mail:

For more information about this vacancy you can contact: Prof. Dr. Stefan Dekker ( or Dr. Wilfried Ivens (

For additional information about the Open Universiteit, you can visit our websites


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