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Flexibility of heat and electricity systems

Flexibility of heat and electricity systems


KU Leuven is among the top European universities (ranked first as Europe's most innovative university in 2019 -Times Higher Education). It is a key player in the field of energy research. Within the division of Applied Mechanics and Energy Conversion (TME) of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the research group "Heat integration into smart energy systems" lead by Prof. Sylvain Quoilin, is involved in an international project evaluating the role district heating and industrial waste heat in future energy systems. In particular, the goal is to evaluate the possible synergies between the heating sector and the power sector in order to achieve high shares of renewables and a deep decarbonisation of the energy system. To support these activities, we are looking for a new PhD student willing to start during the second semester of 2019. This research is part of the EnergyVille framework, a research collaboration on sustainable energy between KU Leuven, VITO, imec and UHasselt.

Energy systems analysis largely relies on mathematical models. These models serve as test-beds to investigate energy system configurations and developments within a country or region which would be impractical, too expensive or impossible to test in 'real-world' conditions. KU Leuven and EnergyVille have a long experience in the development and the exploitation of such models.

District heating and cooling (DHC) networks are traditionally strongly interlinked with the electricity and gas networks via combined heat and power (CHP). In the past years, a new dimension of this interaction has appeared and is related to:

a) an increased share of variable and non-controllable supply in the electricity networks such as PV and wind energy, requiring a higher flexibility in the energy systems to avoid production curtailment or transmission bottlenecks

b) an increased penetration of coupling points between the networks, such as power-to-heat and power-to-gas technologies unlocking a certain flexibility potential. This new dimension in turn offers some opportunities for DHC networks e.g. by integrating technologies such as heat pumps and thermal storage, but on the other hand also imposes challenges due to a higher system complexity.

The objective of this PhD position is to contribute to open source energy system modelling activities within the research group. This involves using and developing libraries of models such as Dispa-SET, Open-IDEAS or other dedicated tools to evaluate the potential of coupling the heating and the power sectors at the European level. Because of the decentralized nature of heat generation, the models will necessarily be multi-scale, and will require the development of ad-hoc aggregation methods. The PhD candidate will start from existing energy systems models and dedicated expertise available in the unit, and will collaborate with the other research group members.

We are seeking a talented and enthusiastic individual willing to join our team Applicants should have a Masters degree in electromechanical/energy/electrical engineering or a closely related discipline.

The candidate should have a strong interest in energy, and especially in energy system operation and planning, thermal energy systems, renewables integration and thermodynamics. Applicants should also have good English communication skills.

The following experience or competences are considered as a plus:
* Good knowledge or Git, Github and experience in open-source projects
* Knowledge in geographic information system (GIS)
* Experience in following programming languages: Modelica, Python, R, GAMS, Julia

We offer:
* A doctoral scholarships for two years (net monthly salary of about ~ €2,000), extendable to four years, and a PhD degree in Engineering if successful
* A highly specialized doctoral training, making the candidate expert in energy systems modeling
* Multiple benefits (health insurance, access to university infrastructure and sports facilities, etc.)
* The opportunity to be active in an international research environment,engage in research collaborations and participate at international conferences

This PhD project will be executed in cooperation between KU Leuven/EnergyVille and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

The main work location will be the EnergyVille Campus of KU Leuven, located in Genk (Belgium), or the Engineering Technology campus located in Geel (Belgium).

For more information please contact Prof. Sylvain Quoilin, tel.: +32 14 72 14 96, mail: or Mr. Matija Pavičević, tel.: +32 14 72 14 90, mail:

Flexibility of heat and electricity systems

KU Leuven, Geel
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