EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in

Energy Resilience and the Built Environment

EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in

Energy Resilience and the Built Environment

EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment

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4-year UCL PhD studentship in Applying a flexibility capital framework to drive an inclusive energy transition

ERBE CDT based at UCL Energy Institute is seeking applications for a fully funded PhD Studentship on topic in Applying a flexibility capital framework to drive an inclusive energy transition

This PhD project will be funded under the EPSRC-SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE)

Context:

“Flexibility capital” refers to the capacity of different social groups to provide flexibility to energy systems, and thereby benefit from the energy transition. This PhD is a unique opportunity to develop a flexibility capital framework and influence academic and policy debates on flexibility and a just transition.

Gareth Powells & Michael J. Fell: Flexibility Capital and Flexibility Justice in Smart Energy Systems

Supervisor: David Shipworth, UCL Energy Institute; Charlotte Johnson, UCL Energy Institute; Michael Fell, UCL Energy Institute

Funding: The studentship will cover UK course fees and an enhanced tax-free stipend of approx. £19,000 per year for 4 years along with a substantial budget for research, travel, and centre activities.

Fees: ERBE CDT has very limited funding for applicants requiring coverage of overseas fees. We advise all interested applicants to be familiar with the changes to EU and International Eligibility for EPSRC/UKRI funded studentships

Dates:  4 years from September 2021

Project description:

Decarbonising the UK’s energy system requires an increase in renewable electricity, in particular to meet demand for electric heating and transport.  To accommodate this, electricity use will have to become more flexible and adapt to variability in supply and grid constraints. For example, smart electric vehicle (EV) charging could be used to avoid lots of EVs in the same area charging at the same time, or to make use of cheap wind power. Or electric heat pumps could be set to turn down when prices on a time of use electricity tariff are high, saving on running costs and reducing strain on the grid.

Some people, households, companies, or communities are better placed to provide (and benefit from) flexibility than others. This could be for a range of reasons, like access to certain technologies, or having job or family circumstances that allow activities to be completed flexibly. “Flexibility capital” (Powells and Fell, 2019) offers a framework to analyse both the technical potential and the societal factors that underpin the realisation of a more flexible electricity system.

Policymakers and industry want to understand the potential of different technological configurations, market offers, and how flexibility can be reliably unlocked. Advances in digitisation and automation offer the promise of maximising flexibility with minimal inconvenience. There is also widespread recognition that the net zero transition should be as equitable as possible, both for reasons of fairness and to avoid undermining public support. This means that new flexibility solutions will need to be engineered with a broad range of participants and situations in mind. The flexibility capital concept, and its implications for a just transition, has already gained traction in research and regulation. This PhD provides an opportunity to develop further the framework and work with stakeholders to apply the framework and deliver real-word impact.

The aim of this PhD project is to develop the flexibility capital framework and provide practical tools for planning and analysing the growth of demand-side flexibility.

The project will analyse:

  • what makes up flexibility capital (e.g. technical, social, and economic resources, geographic location, grid connection / capacity), and how it can be described and/or quantified
  • how flexibility capital is distributed throughout the UK spatially and demographically (factoring in characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, disability, and age)
  • what combinations of technologies and flexibility solutions are expected to emerge as the UK continues to decarbonise, and how these affect participation and deliver different types of value for actors at different points in the energy system
  • how the potential to provide flexibility can be operationalised to the benefit of a wide range of participants, as well as the energy system.

Person specification:

The applicant should have an interest in technical aspects and social dynamics of electricity systems, with strong quantitative skills but an openness to drawing on qualitative data and approaches.

A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, in a relevant subject, is essential. Exceptionally: where applicants have other suitable research or professional experience, they may be admitted without a Master’s degree; or where applicants have a lower second-class UK Honours Bachelor’s degree (2:2) (or equivalent) they must possess a relevant Master’s degree to be admitted.

Applicants must also meet the the minimum language requirements of UCL

Applicants should be familiar with the changes to EU and International Eligibility for UKRI funded studentships

How to apply

Please submit a pre-application by email to the UCL ERBE Centre Manager (bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk) with Subject Reference: 4-year PhD in Applying a flexibility capital framework to drive an inclusive energy transition.

The pre- application should include the following:
• A covering letter clearly stating why you wish to apply for the project outlining how your interests and experience relate to it and confirm your understanding of of EU and International Eligibility for EPSRC/UKRI funded studentships
• CV
• Complete the CDT recruitment EPSRC fees eligibility and EDI questionnaire via the linked Microsoft Forms.

Deadline for applications: Sunday, 20 June 2021 @23:59 (UK time)
Interviews week commencing: TBC

Interview process:

Only shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview.

The interview panel will consist of the project’s academic supervisors at UCL and a representative of the ERBE CDT Academic management. The interview will include a short presentation from the candidate on their ideas of how to approach this PhD project.

For the interview shortlisted candidates will be required to show proof of their degree certificate(s) and transcript(s) of degree(s), and proof of their fees eligibility.
Following the interview, the successful candidate will be invited to make a formal application to the UCL Research Degree programme. For further details about the admission process, please contact: bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk

For any further details regarding the project, contact Michael Fell, michael.fell@ucl.ac.uk

You will be undertaking this project in UCL at the main (Bloomsbury) campus as part of the new EPSRC-SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE CDT). This is a collaboration between UCL, Loughborough University and Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI).

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