Thursday, August 29, 2013

PhD position at ETH Zurich on Public Acceptance of Energy Infrastructures

The newly formed Human-Environment Systems (HES) group at ETH Zürich seeks to hire a PhD student, commencing as soon as possible, for a period of up to three years. Our group is part of the Institute for Environmental Decisions, within the Department for Environmental Systems Science. The student would pursue research within the thematic area of energy, development and security (HES:EDS) in an externally funded research project.

ETH Zürich (Foto: Roland zh, CC)
The HES:EDS thematic area concerns social and governance challenges and risks of a transition to a very large electricity system with high shares of renewables, spanning all of Europe, and possibly North Africa and the Middle East. Issues we are investigating include:

• the social acceptance of devoting large land areas to renewable power generation, centralized and decentralized, and transmission in one’s own back yard and in far off places;
• the methods and tools to involve stakeholders in the processes concerning electricity infrastructures and generation facilities, and the governance options to resolve competing interests for scarce resources, primarily land and water;
• the social and political implications of a system transformation, in particular energy security and human development impacts of cooperation between industrialised and developing regions, and ways of arriving at improved outcomes;
• the financing, construction and maintenance of an integrated power system across disparate and changing political and regulatory systems.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to contribute to research within all research lines of the HES-EDS group, but in particular within the area of social acceptance of electricity transmission lines. Funding for this work comes from a new, European Commission-funded research project: INSPIRE-Grid (“Improved and eNhanced Stakeholders Participation In Reinforcement of Electricity Grid”), and the successful application will work with other project members in completing the research tasks already specified. The overall aim of this project is to provide the evidence base to support improvements to the permission processes for new electricity transmission lines in Europe, and in so doing improve the feasibility of renewable power options. The research tasks to be undertaken at ETH Zürich include analysing existing practices in different national contexts including different stakeholders’ needs and concern. The focus will be on why people oppose or support electricity grid projects, and what possible changes in the permission processes for such projects could accomplish.

Qualifications and skills: We seek a person with some degree of background knowledge on energy systems, gained through study or work experience, who is interested in focusing on social science research questions involving quantitative and qualitative methods, leading to a continuing career in research. Suitable candidates will hold a master’s degree in a relevant social science (e.g. political science, sociology, economics) or interdisciplinary field (e.g. environmental studies, geography, public policy). Excellent command of oral and written English, and willingness to actively engage with new concepts and methods in an interdisciplinary and international team are essential requirements. Proficiency in German, French, or Arabic would be an advantage, but is not a requirement. Prior work or research experience in risk communication processes would also be an advantage.

Position: We intend the position to be the context within which the successful candidate will complete a PhD degree. This will entail a limited amount of coursework, the preparation of a self-motivated research plan consistent with the INSPIRE-Grid project obligations, and ultimately the writing of a number of separate research papers for publication in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Depending on the candidate’s past course transcripts, the ETH Zürich doctoral program office may also require the successful applicant to pass one or more entrance examinations within the first year. PhD students at ETH Zürich also typically engage in some undergraduate teaching, participate in workshops and seminars, and take on limited administrative duties.

The position will start as soon as possible, and is intended to be for a period of three years, within which time the successful candidate will fulfil project commitments and complete a PhD. The initial contract will be for a period of one year, with a transparent review process to determine annual renewal.

The working location will be Zürich, Switzerland, with some work-related travel within and potentially outside of Europe. All members of the HES group contribute to and benefit from a dynamic, friendly, and supportive work environment, where they have the opportunity to pursue independent and self-motivated scholarship at the same time as they benefit from close collaboration with more senior colleagues, as well as a wide international network. We have a policy of supporting all HES group members in their professional development, including attending academic conferences and workshops, and assistance in preparing for their next professional step. ETH Zürich consistently ranks among the top universities in the world, while the city of Zürich is one of the most liveable. Salaries and benefits are extremely competitive, and compensate for the high cost of living in Switzerland.

Application process: To apply, please submit a written application as an email attachment to Anthony Patt, whose contact information may be found on the HES website:<> . Please include the words “PhD Student Application” in the email header. The application, in English, will consist of: (a) a cover letter, in which you describe your background, interest in the position, and interest in pursuing a PhD degree at ETH Zürich; (b) a resume or curriculum vitae, including past education, qualifications, work experience, and any publications; (c) scanned copies of university grades or transcripts at the bachelor and masters levels, with any additional information needed to interpret that information; (d) the names, affiliation, and contact information (telephone and email address) of two references who would be willing to discuss your qualifications. If you wish to submit a sample of written work, please feel free to do so.

You will receive a confirmation of receipt within several days. On 12 September 2013 the team members involved in the INSPIRE-Grid project (Anna Scolobig, Anthony Patt, and Johan Lilliestam) will review all applications received by then, and will continue to review new applications until the position is filled. Following the initial review, we will schedule telephone interviews with a short list of candidates, and may invite one or more candidates for an interview in Zürich. We will notify all unsuccessful candidates as soon as we have reached an agreement with the successful candidate. It is our intention to make a decision as quickly as possible after having received an excellent application from a suitable candidate. We welcome international applications, and applications from women, disabled people, and historically disadvantaged minority groups.

NOTE: DO NOT submit applications to the email address<>. Instead, use the address for Prof. Anthony Patt found on

Friday, August 16, 2013

Final two Interns@SmartGrid_Group

For the last two months we had further two interns working at our institute. We report a short interview about their work and experiences at our research group.

What's your name?
What are you studying?
I am studying electrical engineering and industrial electronics at the HTL Mössingerstraße in Klagenfurt and this year I've finished the 4th class.
What are your expectations for the future?
I want to conclude the HTL with good marks, then I would like to study something that combines electrical engineering and economics.
What are you working on?
LabView GUI
I have worked on a LabVIEW measurement program for a photovoltaic system and have also created a consumer box for the lab, where we want to simulate a household. I have installed input modules, which are used for measuring voltage and current, and an output module, which is used for turning the devices on and off. These modules are implemented into my LabView program and further I have created an interface, where the user is able to input data to the program and view power and current consumption. There is also the possibility to read the measured data and control the devices through a web service in the network. I have also installed the hardware elements in the cabinet, created the wiring plan and ordered appliances. The aim of the program is to be used as a control of consumer devices like a refrigerator, water heater and radiator, which are turned on at the time, when the current price is on the lowest peak. Thus this could be an innovative application for saving costs and has to be researched.
Laboratory Installations
What did you like of the project
I liked about my work that I had the chance to contribute my own ideas and expand my programming skills in LabVIEW. It was a very varied project and I liked the mix of manual work and logical thinking.

What's your name?
What are you studying?
I'm studying electronics and technical informatics at the HTL Mössingerstraße in Klagenfurt. I have finished my second year.
What are you expectations for the future?
After finishing the HTL, I want to study computer science.
What are you working on?
I was working on Java classes for a Smart Grid Simulator which make it possible to use algorithms from the GridLAB-D simulator. To submit this, I converted all data stored by objects from the Smart Grid Simulator into a file which is then used by GridLAB-D. The output files made by GridLAB-D are read and the values are assigned to the proper object.
GridLAB-D to Smart Grid Simulator 
I was also working on an open source energy monitor made by Openenerymonitor. My task was to enable it to change the refresh rate on the transmitter (emonTX) by using buttons on the receiver (emonGLCD). The difficult thing was to send and receive data at a time using the same transceiver.
Power Profile Generation in Java
My final project was the implementation of a Java program, which generates random power profiles of different appliances out of a given database, place this random profiles randomly in time and finally, tries to detect which appliance was used or not. The technique of appliance detection is called Non-Intrusive Load monitoring and enjoys currently an great interest in research.
What did you like of the project?
I like programming a lot. So I had the opportunity to improve my skills.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Smart Grid @ GECCO 2013

On July 6th - 10th we attended the Genetic and Evolutionary Conference GECCO 2013 in Amsterdam. GECCO is the largest conference in field of genetic and evolutionary computation. The conference was organized by 18 different tracks like Genetic Programming, Genetic Algorithms or Real World Applications, had 35 different tutorials and hosted 13 workshops.

From the Smart Grid group, Dominik Egarter took part at the Green and Efficient Energy Applications of Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Workshop 2013, where he presented his paper EvoNILM - Evolutionary Appliance Detection for Miscellaneous Household Appliances.
In this workshop 5 different papers were presented, which topics were widely spread from power flow optimization, wind power forecasting to wind power siting.