PhD researcher - Empowering optimal design for greater resilience of the electricity grid

June 18, 2024
Location Wageningen
End date Mon 2 September 2024
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Your job

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD researcher to conduct cutting-edge research at the interface of resilience and the electricity grid, combining socioeconomic, spatial and technical perspectives.

Energy systems are becoming more decentralized while there is increasing demand for electricity, creating growing vulnerabilities such as grid congestion and cybersecurity risks. It is therefore urgent to ensure a more resilient electricity grid.

To tackle this challenge, at technical level, there is need to design resilient operation strategies with fluctuating renewable generation, and to learn how to make system-level detection and prediction of malfunctions or cyber-attacks in power networks. From a socioeconomic and spatial perspective, there is need to create resilient market design and economic incentives, such as considering dynamic pricing, energy sharing and trading, stakeholders’ distribution of costs and benefits, and spatial differences.

In this project, a resilience assessment framework for electricity grids will first be developed, building on resilience theory and interdisciplinary methods in ecology and economics (e.g., the five Ws). Since energy systems can be modeled as networked systems, we will employ spatial and network analysis; where nodes represent components like substations and consumers, edges represent connections between them such as transmission lines, and network metrics can be used to identify critical components in the systems. Network failure or simulated attacks on nodes/edges could allow to prevent disruptions and identify potential vulnerabilities. A digital-twin approach will be employed to simulate various scenarios, including for example, peak load, component failures, attacks, and renewable energy fluctuations. The approach will empower optimal design for greater resilience of the energy system by improving our understanding and evaluating the vulnerability and the effectiveness of different strategies.

In your position as a PhD researcher, you will:

  • critically review existing resilience–electricity grid literature and develop a comprehensive resilience assessment framework for the electricity grid.
  • develop network models and conduct spatial and network analysis to assess the resilience of the system (electricity grid(s)).
  • use a digital-twin approach to simulate various scenarios such as cyber-attacks and renewable energy fluctuations.
  • analyze different strategies for facilitating a more resilient grid, such as local energy and flexibility market design.
You will work here
The research is embedded within the chair group Urban Economics (UEC) and Biometris, which are led by Prof. Eveline van Leeuwen and Prof. Peter van Heijster respectively. You will be co-supervised by Dr. Sol Maria Halleck Vega and Dr. Xiaodong Cheng.

Your qualities

We are looking for a PhD candidate who:

  • has a master’s degree (or is near completion of a master program) in the field of (Energy) Economics and/or Applied Mathematics, Systems and Control, or relevant fields;
  • preferably has affinity with energy transition-related issues, particularly energy systems, electricity grids, (local) energy markets;
  • preferably has expertise in mathematical modeling and optimization;
  • has programming skills in for example, Matlab, R, and/or Python;
  • likes to engage in interdisciplinary research, collaborating with scientists across disciplines and with societal actors;
  • is able to perform tasks independently and in teams, has good organization and writing skills, and is fluent in English.
For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here

We offer you

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,-  in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 19th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.

Because we expect you to work and live in the Netherlands our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.
Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. We can assist you with any additional advice and information about for example helping your partner to find a job, housing, or schooling. Finally, certain categories of international staff may be eligible for a tax exemption on a part of their salary during the first five years in the Netherlands.

Do you want more information?

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Sol Maria Halleck Vega, and Dr. Xiaodong Cheng,

For more information about the procedure, please contact Noorien Abbas, corporate recruiter,

Do you want to apply?
You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.

This vacancy will be listed up to and including 2 September 2024. We hope to schedule the first job interviews on 13 September 2024.

Additional information form
For this position, you must fill in a mandatory form which will allow us to have a comprehensive view of your qualifications and better assess your fit for it. You can access the form using the link below:   

Your prompt response will ensure that your application continues to move forward in the evaluation process. We assure you that the information provided will be kept confidential and used solely for this application process.

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch the video below to get an idea of our green campus!

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.