PhD positions Delft University of Technology

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Delft University of Technology, Faculty Technology, Policy and Management (Netherlands)

The Faculty Technology, Policy and Management at Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands) is offering two Ph.D. positions as part of a study of the present and desirable future institutional economic context for the transition towards a more sustainable society with hydrogen in a decentralized energy system.

Project Description

The aim of this project is to investigate the degree to which the current institutional and socio-economic regime favours the use of specific energy carriers resulting in lock-in effects.

The ways in which the current energy system may be modified in order to facilitate a more dominant role for hydrogen are analyzed.

In recent years, a strong awareness of the need for the transition towards a more sustainable energy system has developed. The transition should involve not only technical changes, but also consider the social economic context in its entirety.

This study focusses on the necessary changes and existing lock-ins in economic institutions of the Dutch energy system. These dependencies can be attributed to technical factors like network externalities and to institutional and policy factors like the existing finance and subsidy structure favouring existing energy systems.

The theoretical framework is based in the field of institutional and evolutionary economics.

PROJECT 1: Institutional dynamics In order to be able to identify policy lock-ins in national energy systems it is necessary to understand and characterize the specific institutional arrangements.

For this analysis the work of for instance Williamson, North, and Joskow provide useful starting points.

Their line of thought can be used to distinguish different categories of institutional change: evolutionary changes within a certain logic, and revolutionary institutional changes that result in an entire new institutional structure with a new logic.

The following questions will be addressed. Does the current technical and institutional system allow an evolutionary change towards a hydrogen economy (does it fit into the current logic) or is there a need for a revolutionary change (with a new logic)? What concrete measures are necessary or desirable to accomplish a possible change of the energy system? On what layer are these changes and how difficult are they to realize?

PROJECT 2: Hidden financial incentives Modern complex technologies display increasing returns to adoption.

The more they are adopted the more they are improved (Arthur).

If two or more complex (energy) systems with increasing returns compete with each other for adoption accidental events may lead to dominance of one of them (QWERTY-effect).

These events can be historical events like historically determined economic and energy policies.

An important aspect here is the existence of many – often hidden – financial incentives that sustain the lock-in of existing energy systems and impede the adoption of sustainable energy systems like hydrogen.

Starting point of this research is the research of Arthur (1989, Economic Journal).

Based on this research a model should be built in which the lock-in effect of several energy systems are modelled.

Based on research by van Beers (Applied Economics forthcoming: ( the lock-in effect due to past economic and energy policies will be analysed.

This will result in recommendations for policy shifts to overcome existing lock-in effects.

PROFILE: The applicants should have a master degree in micro- and/or environmental economics or policy-engineering.

They should be prepared to work in a strong multi disciplinary environment with economists, political scientists and engineers.

CONDITIONS: The position will be for a maximum of four years.

The gross monthly salary will be approximately € 1,933 in the first year, increasing to € 2,472 in the fourth year.

In addition, an 8 % holiday allowance is offered.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE: please, send a curriculum vitae plus cover letter and the names and contact details of three academic referees to Cees van Beers (c.p.vanbeers [at] and mrs. Thea Wenneker (t.c.wenneker [at]

Please, also indicate which of the two projects you apply for.

Further information can be obtained from: Dr. Cees. van Beers,

E-mail: c.p.vanbeers [at]

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