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PhD position in Accelerating the roll-out of resilient net zero pathways for the Swiss and European energy system in Zürich

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100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Reliability and Risk Engineering group in the Institute of Energy and Process Engineering aims to identify and mitigate systemic risks in interdependent critical infrastructure networks by quantitatively defining reliability, resilience, and risk within these systems. With our modelling, we strive to inform policymakers in the transition to resilient, fair, and sustainable energy and critical infrastructure systems. We focus on engineered complex systems such as energy, communication and transport networks, which provide crucial services to our society.

The position is available immediately by agreement (annual contracts).

Project background

There is an urgent need to create a sustainable and resilient energy system to support the transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and comply with the climate targets established by the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal. As climate change might pose various threats to a clean, affordable, and reliable energy transition, there is a need to combine energy and climate models within the analysis of the energy transition.

The project SPEED2ZERO of the joint initiative of the ETH domain aims to develop toolboxes, action plans, and technology to enable a sustainable transformation to a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) and biodiversity-positive Switzerland. Solutions will target immediate action conducive to halving GHG emissions by 2030, developing the required infrastructure, ensuring a resilient energy system, and securing biodiversity.

In the context of this project, the Reliability and Risk Engineering group will research transition pathways for the Swiss and European energy systems that are compatible with the aforementioned climate targets. More specifically, it will combine energy and climate models to determine the impact of climate change on the optimal design of energy systems and the reliability of energy infrastructures. For example, the project will consider the possibility of extreme climate events induced by climate change and their impact on the Swiss energy system to ensure affordable, clean, and reliable energy and power supply.

Job description

The goal of the project is to support the speedy roll-out of resilient net-zero pathways for the Swiss and European energy systems. To this aim, you will:

  • Expand an in-house modelling platform to (i) consider the outcome of the latest climate models when designing and assessing the energy transition, (ii) account for the uncertainty associated with climate scenarios and extreme climate events when designing and assessing the energy transition;
  • Focus on the Swiss energy transition and on assessing the impact of climate scenarios and extreme climate events on (i) the operation of power generators, (ii) the corresponding need for additional energy storage, and (iii) the corresponding need for imported energy from neighbouring countries;
  • Perform a European analysis to derive general and robust guidelines in terms of the impact of climate change and extreme climate scenarios on the European energy transition;
  • Derive policy-relevant measures that can accelerate the Swiss energy system transition in an affordable, clean, and resilient manner.

To address these points, you will have access to state-of-the-art computational capabilities, and you will be in contact with experts within ETH Zurich and worldwide.

Your profile
  • We are looking for a highly motivated and self-organized individual with a MSc (or near to completion) in engineering or in a quantitative discipline (such as applied physics or mathematics) from an internationally recognized University.
  • Ideally, you have a background in quantitative modelling, optimization, and programming (e.g., Matlab, Python, Julia, GAMS). Knowledge of mixed-integer linear programming solvers (e.g., Gurobi, CPLEX), of modelling environments (e.g., Pyomo, Yalmip, CVX, CVXPY), and of uncertainty quantification is a plus;
  • We require excellent communication skills in English, both verbal and written. Knowledge of German is welcome;
  • You should be able to combine strong individual research with teamwork within the project;
  • We value an open and inclusive group culture. As a member of the Reliability and Risk Engineering group, you will be expected to help us maintain a positive team dynamic and a welcoming work environment.

We offer a modern, dynamic, international, and multidisciplinary work environment, as well as a young and enthusiastic team that values teamwork. 
Furthermore, we aim to maintain and expand our diversity and thus, diverse individuals are strongly encouraged to apply.

Your workplace
Your workplace

We offer

To work on this interdisciplinary project, you will be part of the Reliability and Risk Engineering Lab of ETH Zürich. You will work in a highly stimulating environment with state-of-the-art computational infrastructure. The will comply with the PhD levels offered at ETH Zurich.

We value diversity
In line with , ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.
Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Curriculum Vitae;
  • Letter of motivation of max. 2 pages covering your past academic experiences and future research interests, goals and how they would relate to and fit in with the project and the Reliability and Risk Engineering group’s research domain and activities;
  • Names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of at least two references, mentioning for each the professional relationship you have with them.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.
Further information about the Reliability and Risk Engineering Laboratory can be found on . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Dr Giovanni Sansavini via email at (no application documents).

About ETH Zürich
ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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