PhD Projects

PhD Projects

Remunicipalization of energy has emerged in recent years as a way for cities to take back ownership and control of energy assets and infrastructure. It is argued that remunicipalization can achieve more transformational social and environmental change, in particular ensuring that low carbon energy transitions are equitable in nature. Decentralization is a key aspect of municipalization and, arguably, enables the development of integrated local city-based strategies to tackle climate change, encourages energy efficiency and advances renewable solutions in an equitable fashion. Australia has the highest rate of energy decentralization amongst OECD countries, and this is raising questions about the appropriate scale of energy governance. In Germany, remunicipalization (Rekommunalisierung),energy autonomy (Energieautarkie) and energy cooperatives (Energiekooperativen) are emerging as an important part of the country’s energy transition (Energiewende), with implications for emerging remunicipalization processes around the world. However, at this stage the evidence base for positive claims around remunicipalization remains reasonably limited. The key questions in this research project (T3) are as follows: What have been the key drivers of remunicipalization of energy? To what extent has the change in ownership resulted in greater form of city control over energy and to a de-facto improvement of climate change protection (CO2 reduction)? To what extent has remunicipalization enhanced the capacity of cities to combat climate change? Has remunicipalization enabled a more just transition to a low carbon energy system?

If successful, the PhD candidate will be enrolled at both the University of Melbourne and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and will be co-supervised by supervisors at both institutions. The researcher will be based at KIT, and will spend at least twelve months at the University of Melbourne.

The application process is competitive, with higher than the equivalent of a University of Melbourne 80% in a relevant degree expected. Information on undertaking a doctorate at KIT and eligibility information can be seen here, with information on the University of Melbourne entry requirements here.

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The focus of this topic is the implementation, governance and implications of smart cities and their transition to sustainable urban areas. Digitalization, sensors and big data approaches allow for governance support in the management and controlling of the city metabolism e.g. with respect to energy, water, area/land use, transportation or waste. However, it has not yet been investigated what the implications of smart cities are. Thus, the following questions will be focused: What are economic (e.g. technical equipment, digital apps and user participation, cost structures and jobs at communal facilities/companies, motivation and incentives) and Social (e.g. augmented/virtual reality) implications of smart cities? How can City 4.0 be governed? What are indicators to evaluate the management of a smart city? How can the climate protection, climate adaption, energy and resource efficiency of smart cities be managed, measured and improved? What are data requirements for smart cities? The topics includes modelling and analyses of multi-criteria decision making support on communal level (Optimization of cost, energy demand, GHG emissions, resource efficiency or user acceptance/ participation?) and rethinking the role and responsibilities of local government curating and eco-innovation systems for smart cities rather than planning one. Furthermore, open source big data and its role in smart/intelligent cities will be researched and how do we go from data to knowledge in smart cities? In this topic we have the opportunity to be research partners with a real building being designed and built in Melbourne. Research questions are: How do the connected cities develop? How does the successful management look like? Do they make progress? In which aspects do they develop more successfully?

If successful, the PhD candidate will be enrolled at both the University of Melbourne through the Faculty of Engineering and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and will be co-supervised by supervisors at both institutions. The researcher will be based at KIT, and will spend at least twelve months at the University of Melbourne.

The application process is competitive, with higher than the equivalent of a University of Melbourne 80% in a relevant degree expected. Information on undertaking a doctorate at KIT and eligibility information can be seen here, with information on the University of Melbourne entry requirements here.

Apply now

The project will focus on the relevance of the demand side for the achievement of sustainable transport in urban areas. Sustainable transport needs not only technology switch, but also a shift in modal choice as well, found in many European cities. This holds in particular for growing agglomerations with their limited space for traffic and parking. Many observers argue, that digitalization of the transport sector will increase the potential for modal shift because of a better integration of the different transport options (Truffer et al. 2017). Mobility behavior is deeply influenced by social and economic obligations, spatial structures and transport infrastructures but as well by individual attitudes, preferences and habits. The PhD project will empirically analyze the interplay of the various factors influencing mobility behavior to better understand promising entry points for policy measures. A starting point should be younger adults in German cities, who have less interest in private cars and more openness for flexible, multimodal transport (Puhe and Schippl 2014). An important question is whether indicators for such a trend can as well be found in Australia, and what such a trend could mean for policy measures.

If successful, the PhD candidate will be enrolled at both the University of Melbourne and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and will be co-supervised by supervisors at both institutions. The researcher will be based at KIT, and will spend at least twelve months at the University of Melbourne.

The application process is competitive, with higher than the equivalent of a University of Melbourne 80% in a relevant degree expected. Information on undertaking a doctorate at KIT and eligibility information can be seen here, with information on the University of Melbourne entry requirements here.

Apply now

This PhD project will examine the societal as well as techno-economic conditions of the current waste, waste water and energy management systems in selected cities. This will include formal and informal institutions and regulations within the respective policy settings and projected climate changes. The research aims to understand the different starting conditions to transform existing infrastructures and to identify transformation pathways to implement sustainable integrated concepts in respect waste-water-energy systems. The research is based on a transdisciplinary approach and stakeholders will be involved in the research.

If successful, the PhD candidate will be enrolled at both the University of Melbourne through Melbourne School of Design and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and will be co-supervised by supervisors at both institutions. The researcher will be based at KIT, and will spend at least twelve months at the University of Melbourne.

The application process is competitive, with higher than the equivalent of a University of Melbourne 80% in a relevant degree expected. Information on undertaking a doctorate at KIT and eligibility information can be seen here, with information on the University of Melbourne entry requirements here.

Apply now

The risk related to household energy infrastructure is large in the case of natural hazards (such as extreme heat, cold, rain, hail, etc) on solar panels, wall batteries and other privately owned systems in an industry where technology is driving rapid change for the consumer and needs to be quantified. The project deals with the fundamental trade-off between flexibility and vulnerability of a complex and partly decentralized energy system out of the household’s perspective: Modelling the household decisions and assessing the risk for different roles (consumer vs. prosumer) and for different configurations and cost of the (local) energy system.

If successful, the PhD candidate will be enrolled at both the University of Melbourne and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and will be co-supervised by supervisors at both institutions. The researcher will be based at KIT, and will spend at least twelve months at the University of Melbourne.

The application process is competitive, with higher than the equivalent of a University of Melbourne 80% in a relevant degree expected. Information on undertaking a doctorate at KIT and eligibility information can be seen here, with information on the University of Melbourne entry requirements here.

Apply now



This project will focus on the hazard and associated impact modelling and scenario aspects of future climate projections. SSPs (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways) and RCPs (Representative Concentration Pathways) are commonly used to examine future trends, however better methods have been found to explore future trends, but have not become commonplace in the conversion to risk or hazard sets. Concurrently, flood modelling in the past has been done based on probabilistic maps assuming full correlation across countries, rather than stochastic event sets looking at actual scenarios. Similarly for hail and temperature scenarios, stochastic event sets are required to explore the probability of hail and temperature and provide the link to risk.

If successful, the PhD candidate will be enrolled at both the University of Melbourne through the Faculty of Science and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and will be co-supervised by supervisors at both institutions. The researcher will be based at KIT, and will spend at least twelve months at the University of Melbourne.

The application process is competitive, with higher than the equivalent of a University of Melbourne 80% in a relevant degree expected. Information on undertaking a doctorate at KIT and eligibility information can be seen here, with information on the University of Melbourne entry requirements here.

Apply now

If you have an idea of what you would like to work on in the climate and energy space, then please don't hold back to develop your own PhD topic. You will have to find suitable supervisors and your topic should fit into the more global scope of the Climate & Energy College (see our scope described here). 

This PhD project will investigate the new set of SSP-RCP emission and concentration scenarios, to be released in 2016/2017. One focus could be to look at the dynamics of potentially swift technology shifts that could - on a global level - lead to emission budgets consistent with warming of less than 2C or 1.5C, the Paris Agreement goals. From those insights, strategic investment opportunities as well as policy implications (for example sustainable biomass and CCS) could be derived. Further areas of research will include: the extent to which current investments in the energy sector could become stranded investments; the dynamics of penetration rates of renewable energies once they become economically competitive in more market sectors; and the technological, institutional and regulatory limits to penetration rates. Interested PhD candidates will be asked to frame the subject matter according to their own research interests.

The Paris Agreement and its Art. 4.1 charted the goal of anthropogenic emissions: to be in balance with anthropogenic sinks in the latter half of the century. This PhD could look at the regional implications of such a goal (and the transition towards it) from both a geoscientific point of view (land-use needs, CCS potentials, remainder agricultural emissions), metrics to compare differnt greenhouse gases (how is a balance defined exactly), the transition dynamics towards such a goal (thanks to a meta-scenario analysis of the SSP-RCP database), and the climate implications of different greenhouse gases (with the help of the climate-carbon cycle model MAGICC for example). The PhD candidate will be asked to refine the research question according to its own research interests.

The future evolution of extreme climatic events - particularly droughts, heat waves, cold spells and extreme rainfall - is crucial to evaluating future climatic impacts on society. In our previous work we have developed a method to derive the probability of record-breaking events from climatic trend and variance estimates. This approach has been successfully used for gridded observational temperature data sets for the past century. In this PhD project, this statistical approach can be applied to analyse additional observational data sets, other than monthly gridded temperatures. It can also be applied to generate spatially explicit scenarios for the frequency of future record-breaking extreme events, based on the large-scale climate projections of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP-5 and CMIP-6). 

This PhD research project will focus on the characteristics of the Earth Climate system as modelled by the CMIP6 suite of climate models. The specific focus area will be defined by the PhD candidate. The basic study object will be the CMIP6 ensemble model runs that will become available in the next years. The working horse will be the MAGICC climate model and refined or new parameterisations of those uncertainty ranges in Earth System responses (as seen in CMIP5 and CMIP6 models). For example, building a simplified carbon-cycle model that includes a nitrogen cycle. Alternatively, building a number of gas cycles that take into account different tropospheric OH, photolysis and other sinks for a wide array of greenhouse gases. The PhD candidate could also look at other areas of her/his interest that are part (or could become part) of the MAGICC model (see live.magicc.org). The MAGICC model is one of the primary tools to determine an emission scenarios likelihood to stay below 1.5C or 2C and was widely used in IPCC AR5. Strong modelling capabilities in Fortran and MATLAB are an advantage.

This project is about synthesising integrated assessment knowledge by developing water, food, and socio- economic impact emulators. Probabilistic quantifications of water, food and socio-economic impacts at different levels of global warming, including uncertainty assessments, are rare but seriously needed in the context of the discussion about mitigation targets. This PhD thesis is dedicated to the development of simplified impact emulators and will be based on the ISI-MIP (isi-mip.org/) data set that provides for the first time consistent multi-model global scale projections of climate impacts within the water, biomes, agriculture and health sector. Emulators will have different levels of complexity, reaching from simple scaling with global mean temperature, via linear response functions accounting for the history of the forcing, to non-linear tools. In addition to global mean temperature, regional climate changes or extreme indicators will be tested as potential predictors. In close coordination with project 3.3, the developed impact emulators will form the second level of EXPACT building on the regional geophysical climate projections generated on the first level. Quantification of the inter-impact-model spread of the projections will finally allow for highly efficient probabilistic impact projections. 

Web tools and Projects we developed

  • Open-NEM

    The live tracker of the Australian electricity market.

  • Paris Equity Check

    This website is based on a Nature Climate Change study that compares Nationally Determined Contributions with equitable national emissions trajectories in line with the five categories of equity outlined by the IPCC.

  • liveMAGICC Climate Model

    Run one of the most popular reduced-complexity climate carbon cycle models online. Used by IPCC, UNEP GAP reports and numerous scientific publications.

  • NDC & INDC Factsheets

    Check out our analysis of all the post-2020 targets that countries announced under the Paris Agreement.