PhD Projects

PhD Projects

While there are major discussions about transitioning towards a low-carbon electricity system, less attention has been given to the need to decarbonise the whole Australian energy system. This requires addressing the critical role of other energy sectors such as heating/cooling and transport, as well as interactions with the gas sector and other potential energy vectors such as hydrogen.

...

While there are major discussions about transitioning towards a low-carbon electricity system, less attention has been given to the need to decarbonise the whole Australian energy system. This requires addressing the critical role of other energy sectors such as heating/cooling and transport, as well as interactions with the gas sector and other potential energy vectors such as hydrogen.

The aim of this project is thus to develop a “multi-energy systems” view of Australia, supported by a techno-economic operational model that can also support whole-system planning. Different technologies and opportunities across different sectors will be considered, including, in particular, the possibility of providing different forms of energy storage coming from different sectors. These include the role of buildings and industrial processes to provide virtual storage from thermal inertia, the possibility of using the gas network as long-term store of hydrogen coming from renewables-based electrolysis, decarbonisation of transport through electric and hydrogen vehicles that could represent a further form of energy storage, and so forth. Both operational and infrastructure technical and economic aspects will be taken into account, so that a full cost-benefit analysis of different options to decarbonise the whole energy system could finally be carried out.

In order to meet the COP21 Paris target we may need to consider either removing CO2 from the atmosphere or focus more attention on Short Lived Climate Pollutants. As methane only lasts in the atmosphere for around 12 years, but has a relatively high global warming potential during this period, there are increasing calls for reduced consumption of livestock products. However, having a choice in your diet is limited to around 10 to 14% of the affluent few in the world...

In order to meet the COP21 Paris target we may need to consider either removing CO2 from the atmosphere or focus more attention on Short Lived Climate Pollutants. As methane only lasts in the atmosphere for around 12 years, but has a relatively high global warming potential during this period, there are increasing calls for reduced consumption of livestock products. However, having a choice in your diet is limited to around 10 to 14% of the affluent few in the world.  However, at the same time we have a rising world middle class estimated to be 4.9B by 2030, with a clear trends towards more animal-based protein in their diet. Livestock in the developing world are more than just a source of food, being a essential source of power for planting crops, integral in religious observance and a symbol of wealth. This study will compare the theoretical against the likely the true potential of reduced livestock consumption to address global warming, including the competing factors, alternative uses of livestock in society and recommending the future place of livestock in a warming and more populated world.

There is still a gap between our bottom-up accounting of methane emissions and top-down measurement of methane concentrations in the atmosphere. If we add all methane emissions estimated through data inventories and models, the estimate of global methane concentrations is larger than the growth in methane concentrations. Isotope signatures suggest that the majority of the recent increase in atmospheric methane might be of biogenic origin. This highlights the need for better accounting and reporting of methane emissions and further research on the fate of methane in the atmosphere...

There is still a gap between our bottom-up accounting of methane emissions and top-down measurement of methane concentrations in the atmosphere. If we add all methane emissions estimated through data inventories and models, the estimate of global methane concentrations is larger than the growth in methane concentrations. Isotope signatures suggest that the majority of the recent increase in atmospheric methane might be of biogenic origin. This highlights the need for better accounting and reporting of methane emissions and further research on the fate of methane in the atmosphere. The project will look at methane sources and sinks, at agricultural and wetland emissions, as well as fugitive emissions from fossil fuel infrastructure, including the breakdown of methane in the biosphere, to refine our understanding of the global methane budget.

Empirical analyses of how DERs can be scaled up across different socio-economic, geographical, or sector-based business model approaches. Especially interested in business model testing as related to distributed smart solar+storage and/or microgrid business models and/or those that can be applied in different geographical contexts (especially India, remote Australia).

Interested in hearing about projects that look at the processes of innovation and roles of entrepreneurs, accelerators and incubators in getting companies off the ground and successful clean energy businesses and technologies into the mainstream. Empirical and theoretical projects, and specifically interested in candidates with expertise in carrying this work out in India (although other regions also considered) and those with business venturing / entrepreneurship theoretical approaches.

Dealing with transformation of the energy supply will require a significant redistribution of both risk and benefits not only to governments but to individuals and communities. Continuation of coal and purchase of carbon abatement (e.g. through the REDD+ scheme) potentially has significant effects for people whose livelihood depends on the forest. A turn to gas, such as coal seam gas, has potentially negative effects on farm land, the development of wind also has generated concern in some communities...

Dealing with transformation of the energy supply will require a significant redistribution of both risk and benefits not only to governments but to individuals and communities. Continuation of coal and purchase of carbon abatement (e.g. through the REDD+ scheme) potentially has significant effects for people whose livelihood depends on the forest. A turn to gas, such as coal seam gas, has potentially negative effects on farm land, the development of wind also has generated concern in some communities. This research investigates the way relationships between local communities, governments and energy companies can best be developed to ensure the best outcomes for both climate and community.

In the medium to long term, ambitious mitigation policies will lead to an ever increasing share of renewable energy sources (RES) in total power production. Currently, wind and solar power are assumed to be the key technologies in this development. However, their production fluctuates greatly over time (depending on changing weather patterns – cluster III) and does not follow demand, and sites with high potential are often some distance from demand centres like cities...

In the medium to long term, ambitious mitigation policies will lead to an ever increasing share of renewable energy sources (RES) in total power production. Currently, wind and solar power are assumed to be the key technologies in this development. However, their production fluctuates greatly over time (depending on changing weather patterns – cluster III) and does not follow demand, and sites with high potential are often some distance from demand centres like cities. This temporal and geographical mismatch gives rise to a number of economic and technological challenges, which are subsumed as the process of "integration of RES" in existing energy systems. The PhD candidate will investigate the economic aspects of selected integration options, and will thus contribute to an understanding of the extent to which integration costs increase the total system costs of energy supply. 

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 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...

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 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...

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...

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). 

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)...

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.

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...

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. 

Without reducing GHG emissions from agriculture and land use change, ambitious climate mitigation targets are unlikely to be achieved. At the same time, agricultural production has to adapt to changing climate conditions. Large-scale impacts of new production systems on land use emissions as well as resilience to unfavourable future climate conditions will be assessed. Among other options, production of certain types of bioenergy may create important synergies. This will be assessed with a suite of biophysical and agro-economic models...

Without reducing GHG emissions from agriculture and land use change, ambitious climate mitigation targets are unlikely to be achieved. At the same time, agricultural production has to adapt to changing climate conditions. Large-scale impacts of new production systems on land use emissions as well as resilience to unfavourable future climate conditions will be assessed. Among other options, production of certain types of bioenergy may create important synergies. This will be assessed with a suite of biophysical and agro-economic models. The results will be useful for designing agricultural and energy policies at the interface between climate change mitigation and adaptation.