Students are the most important part of our college. If you think we can provide you with the right network and setting to do your PhD in climate and/or energy system science, please consider applying. We would love to hear from you.
With a degree in economics and honours degrees in development studies and law, Adrian began his career as a solicitor with a leading Australian law firm before moving in-house as a corporate lawyer with a global beverage company. He then worked in corporate partnership and innovation roles with international development and environment organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom.
PhD Project: Household Solar Power Policy
While some writers point to an imminent residential solar power revolution, others remind us that we are not there yet and that in the meantime policy makers control the mass adoption of rooftop solar power. Yet policy makers are influenced by their constituents and the interests of various groups. With a view to better understanding sustainable energy transitions, this PhD research explores how business and community organisations have sought to contribute to the development of residential solar power policy in Australia.
Alex studied Geography in Berlin and Climate Science in Bern. Before starting his PhD project in Melbourne he worked at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I Technical Support Unit during the Fifth Assessment cycle. Alex draws on his work experience to develop research questions related to changes in climate systems that potentially have severe societal consequences. He hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the physical implications of different climate futures. For his doctorate, Alex is synthesizing knowledge about multi-centennial sea level rise projections.
PhD Project: Synthesizing uncertainties of transient sea level rise projections
This PhD project is based on the development of a new sea level module for the MAGICC simple climate carbon cycle model. The module will include the most important sea level drivers and project sea level up to the year 2300. The calibration of the individual sea level components thermal expansion, glacier, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and land water storage components is going to be based on the latest available process understanding and data. A probabilistic framework will be introduced to provide a thorough uncertainty assessment of respective long-term projections. The sea level module will be applied to investigate multi-centennial sea level responses to selected emission pathways and the implications of delayed mitigation action for physical sea level rise impacts. In addition, uncertainties and thresholds inherent to Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet contributions to sea level rise may be analysed as well as the potential to implement potential scaling methods for regional sea level signals.
Supervisors: A/Prof Malte Meinshausen, Prof. David Karoly
German Supervisors: Anders Levermann, Matthias Mengel
Alexei was previously a research associate at the RMIT University Global Cities Research Institute, working across a range of climate change adaptation projects in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as private sector and local government partners in Australia. He has a background in human geography and development, with ongoing advisory roles with UN-Habitat and the UN Global Compact Cities Programme.
PhD Project: Urban Climate Resilience in Melanesia’s rapid-growth cities: the migrant narrative
Alexei’s PhD project is examining the engagement of migrant households within urban climate resilience initiatives in the rapidly-growing Melanesian cities of Port Vila and Honiara, following recent climate-related disaster events. These two case studies will provide an empirical basis for wider consideration of the role of dynamic migrant households, as well as their unique capacities and perspectives, in resilience thinking and its applications to cities in the context of climate-related shocks and stressors.
Alister is a PhD candidate through the department of Geography at the University of Melbourne. Alister holds a Master of Environment (Distinction) from the University of Melbourne, as well as a BSc (Distinction) in biological sciences from RMIT University. His previous research has looked at the role of leadership in international climate change politics, with particular focus on the tension between national and international priorities in India and other large rapidly industrialising countries. He has a particular interest in the balance between environment and development, and the role that developing countries can play in confronting climate change.
PhD Project: The politics of climate finance
A functioning, adequately resourced climate finance system has the potential to normatively and materially address long-standing North-South issues in climate change negotiations, and to facilitate the ultimate goal of these negotiations – a safe atmosphere. However, debates over how much finance is required, how finance is regulated, gathered and disbursed, and how funding is allocated remain significant barriers to building agreement. This research project will track the evolution of these three debates to broaden understanding of the climate finance regime as it becomes central to a global climate response.
Anita has a Masters in climate change and an engineering degree from the Australian National University. She previously worked for the Australian Parliamentary Library providing research and analysis to Members and Senators of the Australian Parliament on climate change and renewable energy issues. In 2011 she spent a brief period at the European Parliament in Brussels.
PhD Project: Policy and governance of climate engineering
Anita is interested in how Australia might be affected by climate engineering initiatives and what the governance implications might be. In the first stage, she explored with data from climate simulations the likely climatic impacts of solar radiation management on Australia and associated uncertainties. She concluded that the global deployment of any solar radiation management is likely to result in complex and uncertain climatic impacts for Australia. In the next stages of her research, she will be exploring plausible future global scenarios involving climate engineering and assessing Australia’s governance framework against these possible futures.
Supervisors: Prof. David Karoly, A/Prof. Peter Christoff
Annabelle completed her undergraduate degree at Melbourne, majoring in Politics and Chinese. In her Honours year, she investigated China's environmental policy in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. Upon completing her studies, Annabelle worked at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Last year, Annabelle completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Environments (Public Health). She is embarking on her PhD journey through the EU Centre on Shared Complex Challenges, and is exploring the role of health co-benefits in the development of national climate change mitigation policies in Australia, China and the EU.
PhD Project: The role of health co-benefits in the development of national climate change mitigation policies
Annabelle’s PhD project aims to expand on current climate and health knowledge by investigating how predicted health outcomes from the implementation of mitigation measures (often termed health co-benefits and co-harms) are considered and accounted for in the development of national climate change mitigation policy. She will be building case studies for Australia, China and the European Union in order to understand what factors influence the extent to which health co-benefits are integrated into national climate change mitigation policies.
Supervisors:Prof. David Karoly, Prof. John Wiseman, A/Prof. Grant Blashki
Cathy Alexander has eight years’ experience as a political journalist in Australia. For most of this time she covered environmental policy and politics, with a major focus on climate change. She worked from the press gallery in Parliament House, Canberra, for three years with Australian Associated Press (2007-2010). More recently she was deputy editor of the website Crikey, where she continued to write on the environment and climate change. Cathy has also worked for a federal Coalition shadow cabinet member. Cathy has a first-class Honours degree in Politics and History from the University of Tasmania, a Certificat d’Etudes Politiques from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Aix-en-Provence (France), a Master of Environment from the University of Melbourne, and is now studying a PhD with the College. Her topic area is the politics and policy of climate change in Australia. She speaks French and a little German. Cathy works part-time with the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.
PhD Project: The policy and politics of climate change in Australia
Cathy is exploring the politics and policy of climate change in Australia. She will ask how to make controversial policies stick in Australia. To operationalise this, she is planning a comparative study of the Carbon Price Mechanism (CPM, also called the carbon tax) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Both were substantial, controversial policy instruments which faced significant opposition. But while the GST proved a ‘sticky’ policy – that is, it survived, is now embedded and may be extended - the CPM was closed down within two years. Cathy will analyse the contexts around both policies, the nature of the policies themselves, and finally the dominant strategies that the respective governments used in relation to each policy. She will seek to identify what it was about the Gillard Labor government’s strategic armoury which contributed to policy failure.
In her conclusion, Cathy will seek to draw possible lessons about how to make tricky policy ‘stick’, which may be of assistance to future policy-makers who are seeking to implement ‘sticky’ policies on climate change. Building on the work of Alan McConnell on policy success, and on his framework which matches particular strategies with particular contextual factors, Cathy will seek to modify this framework for the Australian context, while expanding on his treatment of ‘alliance-building’.
Changlong Wang grew up in China, studied at the Australian National University and has an engineering degree in Sustainable Energy Systems, Electronic Systems, Mechanical and Material Systems. In his honours project with the Australian Solar Institute Laboratory at the ANU, he developed several routine methods for detecting and distinguishing the most important defects (Iron and Oxygen) in silicon solar cells. To facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy, he is interested in exploring the challenges and opportunities with increased variable renewable generation on the Australian electrical grid.
PhD Project: Challenges and Opportunities of Increased Intermittent Renewable Generation on the Australian Electrical Grid
This project aims to explore the effects of various penetration levels of renewables on the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) grid, with respect to resource availability and identifies the key challenges from the perspective of the grid to introducing solar and wind resources. The transmission lines required to reach these abundant but remote renewable resources are costly, and understanding whether the expense is justified is also an important question. This project will then explore strategies to lower the cost of grid operation with renewables and develop a roadmap for Australia from the current power system to future power systems in 2050 with a range of substantially lower carbon emissions.
Dispatch Modelling: the Melbourne University Renewable Energy Integration Laboratory (MUREIL) modelling tool will be further developed and used for the dispatch of conventional thermal and existing and emerging renewable technologies. (Changlong is responsible for developing the Transmission model for MUREIL). The model takes into account the short-term variability in meteorology as it relates to wind and solar energy as well as demand. Transmission Modelling: the state-of-art power flow modelling technique - Linear-Programming Approximation of AC Power Flows (LPAC) will be applied to capture reactive power and line losses, etc. in contrast to the widely used Active Power only (DC) modelling technique.
Supervisors: Dr. Roger Dargaville, Dr. Tansu Alpcan
Dimitri is from the Netherlands, but has been living in Australia for the last 8 years. He graduated from the University of Utrecht with an MSc in geology/geophysics and has been working as a geoscientist for Shell for 11 years in the Netherlands and Australia. He now returns to academic life in pursuit of a PhD researching the climate impact of fugitive emissions of the fossil fuel industry, and unconventional gas in particular. In his free time he can be seen cycling in the Dandenongs.
PhD Project: The effects of methane emissions of unconventional gas settings on the climate
The research aim of this PhD is to investigate and to better quantify the climate impacts of methane emissions and methane leakage associated with unconventional gas developments and specifically the coal seam gas (CSG) developments in Queensland. This will be achieved using field measurements in Queensland and at natural CH4 vents in East Timor, inversion modelling techniques, existing emission databases and climate modelling.
The impact of anthropogenic fossil fuel greenhouse emissions on the climate makes understanding of the true emissions crucial in order to be able to transition to a renewable energy system, without undermining the efforts to avoid dangerous climate change. Natural gas is seen as the transition fuel to make this transition possible, as it emits only 60% of CO2 emissions compared to coal when combusted. There is however mounting evidence, particularly from the United States, but also from Australia, that CH4 emissions from gas extraction and transportation are significantly higher than estimated and reported. While the US studies concentrate on shale gas, the Australian unconventional gas projects are coal seam gas developments.
What are the CH4 emissions from theses unconventional gas developments, what is the impact of the transition from coal to gas on the climate in a world of increasing demand, and what does this mean for the development of unconventional gas?
Supervisors: Prof. Peter Rayner, A/Prof. Malte Meinshausen, Prof. Mike Sandiford
Dylan is a Chemical Engineer, with experience as an energy analyst. He has a detailed understanding of the cost structure of energy technologies and the electricity market. He was an author of the Melbourne Energy Institutes Renewable Energy Technology Cost Review, commissioned by the Garnaut Review, an investigation of renewable technology costs and projections. He has also developed detailed energy market models for analyzing the National Electricity Market electricity dispatch and price-setting system, in the context of understanding the effect of distributed solar photovoltaic systems and other technologies affecting wholesale electricity demand.
PhD Project: Merit of Solar - Impact and Future of Solar Photovoltaics in the Australian Market
Renewable energy capacity has rapidly expanded in recent years as part of global efforts to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change. The addition of generation capacity been shown to markedly reduce wholesale spot prices in restructured electricity markets around the world. This phenomenon, known as the 'merit order effect', is demonstrably impacting electricity wholesale prices in Australia and abroad. On the one had, the effect has been argued to offset the cost of schemes supporting renewable energy. On the other hand, others suggest it is a wealth transfer and not welfare enhancing, leading to higher prices. Tthe long-term implications of the merit order effect, for both renewable generators and liberalised electricity markets, are poorly understood, while be critical to these debates, and renewable energy policy. This research aims to investigate this issues in relation to distributed solar generation. Firstly, inversion modelling will be used to assess and characterise the contributions of rooftop solar generation to Australia’s electricity supply. Results from this analysis will then allow econometric techniques to be used to determine, estimates of the merit order effect, the impact on incumbent generator output and bidding behaviour and effect on emissions. Finally, this will allow potential short and long-term effects of renewable energy to be explored, using market modelling techniques.
Elisabeth studied Environmental Engineering at TU Berlin, with specialisations in agriculture, soil science and ecological modelling. During her final thesis, which she completed at the University of Lund, she analysed the role of soil respiration for the carbon balance of boreal forests. Prior to coming to Melbourne, she held a position as research assistant at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, exploring the impact of the ENSO climate oscillation index on global agricultural yields. Elisabeth's research interests are centered around the functioning of ecosystems and their resilience to climate change as well as the sustainable management of natural resources in view of global climatic and demographic change.
PhD Project: Extreme weather events and extreme impacts – using climate impact models for the prediction of multi-sectoral extreme events.
This PhD project will explore the use of climate impact models for the prediction of sector-specific impacts of weather events. More specifically, it will use model output data created within ISI-MIP2 (the global Intersectoral Impacts Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 2) to derive relationships between large scale oscillation indices (e.g. ENSO, NAO, IOD) and seasonal forecasts of weather-related impacts for current climate conditions. This project will focus on the agricultural sector, which is the main livelihood source of a large fraction of the population in many developing countries and impacts are directly linked to the food security of these population groups. However, the transferal of the methodology to other sectors (e.g. health, water) will be explored.
Supervisors: A/Prof. Malte Meinshausen, Prof. David Karoly
Until early 2011, Ellycia worked a Marine Scientist, with Oceana – the world’s largest marine conservation organization. As part of the Climate Change and Clean Energy team in their Washington DC headquarters, Ellycia played a significant role in communicating and translating information about climate change and ocean acidification to policy makers and the general public, in an effort to raise awareness about their impacts and advocate for policy creation to protect the oceans and those that depend on them. While with Oceana Ellycia authored multiple reports and publications and presented at various conferences and fora, including at side-events at the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancun, at which she was head of Oceana’s delegation. Ellycia holds a Masters of Environment from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science from Monash University. She has also spent time studying at the University of California, Berkeley and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
PhD Project: Following the Knowledge of Ocean Acidification
Drawing upon the insights provided by the study of science, technology and society (SSTS), specifically through the sociology of scientific knowledge, as well as network theory and policy science, Ellycia is exploring how expert knowledge around ocean acidification is created by a community of researchers, how this community contributes to the transferal of this knowledge to policy makers and how policy makers then utilize this knowledge in policy making. This research hopes to make intellectual contributions to our understandings of how expert knowledge is produced and transferred for use in environmental governance. In addition, it is hoped that this research can help to inform practical understandings of knowledge use in policy making and help build better strategies for the effective communication of such knowledge.
Supervisors: A/Prof. Peter Christoff, Dr. Rachel Hughes and Prof. Ove hoegh-Gulberg (UQ)
Fiona has a Masters in Spatial Information Science from the University of Melbourne. Her major project looked at “Comparison of MODIS-Aqua Chlorophyll-a algorithms west of Tasmania. Previously she studied Computer Engineering and Mathematics in Melbourne and enjoyed a semester exchange in Germany. In her spare time she practices Aikido, a Japanese martial art, for which she recently graded in Japan. On weekends she enjoys spending time along the Victorian coast: open water swimming, walking and enjoying the surf. She began her career as a software consultant, working in Australia and the United States. Now she has joined the College and will be looking at probabilistic regional temperature and precipitation extremes.
PhD Project: Probabilistic regional temperature and precipitation extremes
●Probabilistic analysis and numerical experiments using climate models and novel data analysis techniques applied to both observational and climate model data
●Assessment of the uncertainty of regional long-term projections
Supervisors: A/Prof Malte Meinshausen, Prof. David Karoly
Graham is an electronic and industrial engineer with a technical, R&D, and management career in small business. His experience covers analog electronics, industrial automation, energy efficiency, and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). Following the completion of a Masters in Sustainable Energy at RMIT in 2008, he has made contributions to the energy and climate areas. His research aims to develop an improved systems-based methodology for EROI (energy return on investment) for fossil and non-fossil electricity generation. The research will draw on the field of Biophysical Economics, the history of energy transitions, markets, renewables integration, and engineering. The aim is to provide a more comprehensive metric for energy supply technologies that better captures “societal value”, to inform energy and climate policy.
High quality energy, including electricity, underpins economic development
EROI provides a physical measure of the resources needed to deliver electricity to society
Electricity is valuable only within the context of a system, but ascertaining the value of particular components can be challenging
Electricity pricing is multi-layered and rules based
EROI offers a pathway to bypass the complexities of electricity pricing to inform energy and climate policy
Working with environmental non-governmental organisations, Kate has worked on the European Union’s policy responses to forest governance reforms and illegal logging, specifically the EU forest governance, law and trade (FLEGT) initiative, as well as the development of the REDD+ mechanism (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) at the UNFCCC. She has been following the UN climate negotiations since 2009, focusing on the role of forests and land-use in climate mitigation, and the human rights impacts of climate policies. Kate holds an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London. She has published on equity and human rights, distributive climate justice, and illegal logging and trade, and is now undertaking a PhD investigating the science-policy interface around terrestrial carbon science in international climate politics.
PhD Project: The politics of accounting: equitable approaches to land-use in a carbon constrained world
Emissions from agriculture and land-use contribute roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet at the same time the land sector is crucial to the pursuit of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and a large number of people depend upon land for food, fuel, and livelihoods. The newly concluded Paris Agreement raises the possibility of unprecedented reliance on land-based mitigation, with the long-term goal of achieving a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks”. A key dilemma is how to secure land-based mitigation so as to enhance ambitious climate action, without undermining food security or other essential land-uses.
This project will draw on science and technology studies (STS) to examine the links between knowledge-making and decision-making authority in multilateral climate negotiations on terrestrial sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. By analysing the complex interplay between the technical and political in this realm, Kate will explore the notion of “governing by expertise” as the dominant approach to including land-based mitigation in the multilateral climate regime. Such an approach entails a technicalisation of what are highly contested normative and political questions about who should do what in combating climate change, and what role the land sector should play. What this means for the EU and other countries in the context of the Paris Agreement, and the environmental integrity and equity implications of large-scale land-based mitigation, are questions explored in this thesis.
Supervisors: A/Prof. Peter Christoff, Prof. Robyn Eckersley
Kennedy Mbeva is currently a PhD candidate in the department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Melbourne. His PhD project explores the co-evolution of the trade and environmental governance regimes, focusing on how preferential trade agreements foster (or not) environmental governance.
Prior to commencing his PhD, Kennedy was a Research Fellow at the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), a leading pan-African public policy think tank, working on environmental policy and governance, with a focus on climate policy.
Kennedy holds an Msc in Environmental Management from the UNEP-Tongji Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development (Distinction) in Shanghai, China, and a Bsc in Environmental Studies from Kenyatta University (Hons) in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also a winner of the prestigious Green Talents Fellowship Award for High Potentials in Sustainability (2014).
Supervisors:Prof. Robyn Eckersely and Dr. Evgeny Postnikov
Madhu worked as a consultant in a multi-disciplinary environmental services firm for over a decade where he managed projects of varied environmental planning and design complexities in Australia, China, Hong Kong and India.
He was involved in preparation of numerous environmental impact assessments for major projects such as wind farms, quarries, mines, landfills, telecommunication and other infrastructure facilities. Planning and design projects have included city master planning, tourism redevelopments, campuses, residential estates and aged care facilities.
Madhu has appeared as an expert at Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and was routinely involved in producing material for evidence at VCAT and Panel Hearings. Madhu has a postgraduate diploma and masters in landscape architecture from Melbourne and is trained as an architect in India. Madhu is also an accredited LEED professional in neighbourhood design with the US Green Building Council.
PhD Project: “I Am The City, You Let Me Be” - Understanding Sociocultural Dynamic-ism in Planning for Climate Resilience in Cities.
The context of the research is at the nexus of climate, city and culture, each of which are dynamic ad complex. In such complex systems, planning for climate resilience needs a re-examination of human attitudes and behaviours to the environment the scale of a neighbourhood. This research will seek to identify the operating socio-cultural standards implicit in neighbourhood communities, understand its implications to the quality of life and climate resilience.
Marina Povitkina is a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science and Quality of Government Institute at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research is in comparative environmental politics with the focus on democratic institutions and quality of government. Marina is currently a visiting PhD student at the School of Social and Political Sciences and the Australian-German Climate & Energy College at the University of Melbourne in February-March 2017.
Martin studied Biological Sciences at The University of Southern California where he specialized in Astro and Geomicrobiology and later worked on Microbial Fuel Cells at the J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla. Martin then returned to Argentina, his home country, to pursue social entrepreneurship and establish businesses within the clean energy sector. As an entrepreneur, Martin has developed projects in renewable energies for the built environment, biofuel projects for large agriculture farms, forest conservation initiatives, marketing and corporate social responsibility campaigns for multinationals, and established a network of sustainable architecture to tackle social innovation projects.
PhD Project: Searching for Disruptive Social Business Models in the Energy Sector: The role of social innovation in aggregating prosumers with Virtual Power Plants
At the Australian-German, Martin channels his multiple interests into an interdisciplinary PhD that develops and tests disruptive innovations. His research proposes that business models that can combine Internet and energy management developments such as peer-to-peer platforms and Virtual Power Plants, in order to collectively manage distributed energy resources, are ideal systems for socially innovative firms to achieve scale and replication. Socially innovative firms, which can address an environmental problem with a market-based approach, are theorised as critical developments that can influence business direction and flexibility to the carbon lock-in. The project entails the design and simulation of an urban social electricity-trading network using a City of Melbourne case study to propose how this systemic change would come about.
Case study analysis of business model innovation in the electricity sector with a multi-level perspective on sociotechnical transitions (niche, regime and landscape levels). Content literature on the intersection of the collaborative economy/ PCP platforms with electricity networks.
Design and develop technical and economic simulations of Virtual Power Plants composed of a portfolio with multiple prosumers and other DERs.
Supervisors: Dr. Roger Dargaville, Prof. John Wiseman, A/Prof Chris Ryan, Dr. Adam Bumpus
Matthew initially worked for over a decade in the global financial news and information business companies such as: Knight Ridder, Dow Jones and Reuters where he gained experience working in the media and news business. Following that career he spent a couple of years with Hewlett Packard as a Pre Sales Engineer/Technical Account Manager. In 2007 he formed an Environmental NGO ‘Beyond Zero Emissions’ and in conjunction with The University of Melbourne produced the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, mapping a pathway to convert the Australian economy to 100% renewables. In 2015 he completed his Master in Engineering (Sustainable Energy) and set up his business, ‘Pure Electric Total Home Conversions’, which provides tailored installation of energy efficient appliances to householders and businesses.
As part of his final thesis for his Master of Engineering Matthew investigated the possibility of building a high volume, modern Australian house which used solar panels as wall cladding and roofing material via a case study house in the suburbs of Melbourne. The case study home has 84 solar panels installed in 12 separate arrays facing north, east, south and west and provides data which gives an indication of the performance and potential energy yield of future buildings built with solar as the predominate cladding material.
The PhD Matthew is now undertaking will take the project a step further and investigate the feasibility of the widespread substitution of PV panels as cladding material on Australia’s housing stock (new and existing). The ultimate aim of the PhD project is to determine the feasibility of providing 100% of Australia’s energy requirements via houses clad in PV material within a decade. The scope of the project includes replacing all fossil energy demand related to domestic living such as gas for space heating, water heating and cooking as well as petroleum fuel for transportation.
Nick completed a Bachelor of Communications and Diploma of Business at Monash University in 2000 and spent the next fifteen years working in various communications roles within the corporate sector. He combined employment with further study, completing a Bachelor of Letters with Honours in politics in 2010, and a Master of European and International Studies in 2014. His Honours thesis focussed on the state-firm nexus within the European automotive industry.
PhD project: The transition to renewable technologies in the European electricity sector: A critical analysis of the EU’s role
In order to limit warming to below 2°C, the electricity system must transition almost fully to renewable energy before mid-century. The European Union (EU) has identified decarbonisation of its stationary energy sector as an important strategic priority. As a supranational authority, the EU seeks to play a role in shaping the pace and direction of the transition within Europe. However, a number of factors will influence the scope and effectiveness of EU involvement. One is the interests of member states, which may conflict with EU objectives. The second is entrenched national innovation and socio-technical systems, which govern the development and diffusion of new technologies. Different national systems may be incompatible with EU policies, acting as an impediment to supranational intervention.
The thesis will examine the role that the EU can, and should, play in the transition to renewable technologies within the EU, based on its policy competencies and emissions reductions commitments. It will also examine the manner and extent to which national interests and entrenched socio-technical systems influence that role.
Supervisors: A/Prof Peter Christoff, Prof Philomena Murray
Philip is a Berlin born international trade and investment jurist. He obtained his Master’s degree (LL.M.) in “International and European Law: Trade and Investment Law” with distinction from University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) from FernUniversität in Hagen (Germany). Philip advanced his studies in Barcelona (Spain) where he attended specialized courses of the “International Economic Law and Policy Program” (IELPO LL.M.) as well as in Bern (Switzerland) at the WTI Summer Academy 2015 of the World Trade Institute.
Prior to commencing his Ph.D. at Melbourne Law School he interned in dispute settlement with the Legal Affairs Division of the World Trade Organization and worked for three years as a law clerk at Clearingstelle EEG, a German alternative dispute resolution institution enacted under the German Renewable Energy Sources Act with the purpose of settling domestic renewable energy disputes.
Poomphan is an energy analyst who is specialised in low-carbon technologies as well as energy modelling. He earned his Masters in Renewable Energy and Environmental Modelling from the University of Dundee (UK). He previously worked across a range of clean energy projects in ASEAN, Italy, the Pacific region, and the United Kingdom. He built up a good track record of consultancy experience in private equity-owned, international agencies as well as several government agencies in the Asia-Pacific region. He is passionate about using his technical skills and knowledge for the development of smart and innovative solutions for the energy sector.
PhD Project: Multi-objective Real-Time Price-Based Demand Response Management for Australian National Electricity Market with robust optimisation
Poomphan’s PhD project utilises the merit of Demand Response concept to the Australian National Electricity Market with the aim of alleviating peak demand and deferring the needs for new power plant. This project employs energy demand, real-time electricity price uncertainties and meteorological data in the National Electricity Market; and models them as multi-objective real-time price-based demand response application via novel optimisation technique. Results from this analysis will then consent econometric techniques to be used to determine the merit of an incumbent generator output, effect on emissions and allow demand response management application that can be embedded into smart meters and automatically executed on-line for determining the optimal operation for all electricity users.
Rachelle graduated with a bachelor's in wildlife biology from the University of Montana and an M.S. from the University of Melbourne. She worked for the United States Forest Service for the following 8 years, writing syntheses addressing fire ecology of plant and animal species. While there she devoted increasingly more time to local sustainability efforts and sustainability research, including investigating barriers to implementation of energy efficiency measures in the Forest Service. She is primarily interested in climate change issues that incorporate both natural and human systems and their interactions.
PhD Project: Integrated analysis of the mitigative and adaptive potential of soil carbon in grazing systems
Rachelle’s thesis uses a whole-farm system modelling approach to quantify the agro-ecosystem benefits and mitigation implications of soil carbon in the grazing systems of western Victoria in both recent and future climates. The primary research questions are:
What are the productivity benefits of greater N supply from mineralization and increases in plant available water holding capacity associated with increased SOM?
How much does increased soil carbon in a grazing system influence its sink potential and net emissions?
How do future climate projections affect the productivity benefits and GHG emissions associated with higher SOM at a local level?
What are the regional-level adaptation and emission consequences of increased SOM?
Comparing historic and future climates as well as local and regional scales will assist in identifying the potential for synergies or trade-offs of using soil carbon (in the form of SOM) as an adaptation and/or mitigation option. This research will also inform future local and regional scale investigations of potential adaptation-mitigation synergies.
Supervisors in Melbourne: A/Prof Richard Eckard, Dr. Brendan Cullen
Supervisors in Germany: Prof. Hermann Lotze-Campen
Raif is an Australian professional public servant, with over 15 years experience in policy and regulatory roles pertaining to energy systems, markets and resources. Raif graduated from the University of Western Australia in 2000 with a BA(Hons) in political science. Upon graduation, Raif worked for the Western Australian Government in upstream energy resources. Since then he has worked for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in energy network regulation from 2004-2007, and for the Victorian Government since 2007 on national energy market reform processes. Raif's interest is in policy formation and reform within federal political systems, and he hopes to contribute to understanding of how energy market policy can be developed in the public interest to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
PhD project: Federalism, policy formation and the energy market transition in Australia
The aim of this research is to analyse the implications of energy policy making within the Australian federation for the transition of the energy markets toward a low carbon emissions system. The key question to be answered is whether the energy regulatory and governance framework in Australia is adaptive to changing policy demands and is able to produce effective policy in the future.
The study will draw upon rational choice and institutional theory to analyse the cooperative federalism institutional arrangements that were put in place consequent to the Australian Energy Market Agreement in the early/mid-2000s and which form the basis of significant policy activity today. The study will analyse the way that public policies aimed at effecting a transformation of the energy market are affected by the federal institutional arrangements. The effects of these institutional arrangements on policy formation and implementation will be analysed based on historic case studies, with a view to drawing conclusions about the positive and negative implications of these arrangements.
Seb Rattansen is an experienced policy analyst with over five years experience in both the UK and New Zealand public sectors. He has worked on strategic policy and operational policy in both countries. In the UK he led the development of a new air quality requirement for the £864m Renewable Heat Incentive. The RHI is a flagship initiative designed to help the UK meet its EU climate targets. In New Zealand he led the publication of the Dairying Clean Streams Accord Snapshot of Progress report for 2010/11. This was a key report on the environmental performance of the agricultural sector in New Zealand.
He also has a strong academic and research background. He recently completed an MA thesis in Politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland, which evaluated the effectiveness of the climate change regime in New Zealand and the United States. He received 1st Class Honours for his thesis. Prior to his MA, Seb completed a BA in Political Studies (1st Class Honours) and worked as a Research Assistant for Dr Jian Yang and Professor Steven Hoadley at the University of Auckland. Seb received a Summer Research Scholarship and a Senior Prize in Political Studies in 2007.
Specialisms: climate change politics, climate change policy, renewable energy policy, environmental policy, international relations
PhD Project: Searching history for solutions to climate inaction
Skye has a background in environment and development issues across the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on responding to environmental and climate change risks and uncertainty. She works on the development of climate change adaptation and environment projects in the Asia-Pacific region for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). She previously worked as a researcher and research coordinator for the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia Centre, and formerly on government environmental and climate change management, policy, education and behavioural change projects and programmes, as well as in research and consultancy roles in the social and environmental sustainability areas. Skye holds a Masters of International Urban and Environmental Management from RMIT University, Melbourne.
PhD project: The influence of climate change adaptation approaches on local resource management processes in Indonesia
Skye is a PhD student at the University of Melbourne’s School of Geography and at the Australian-German Climate College. Skye’s research is on processes of local engagement in climate change adaptation in Indonesia, and how these influence outcomes in local resource management. Her research draws on three cases in Central Java, West Kalimantan and Central Maluku, to examine how engagement approaches in community-based climate change adaptation at the local level influence adaptation outcomes.
Sonya completed a Masters of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne, where she investigated changes in alpine Australia’s winter rain and snowfall events. She has worked for both the University of Melbourne and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology as a research assistant focusing respectively on synoptic weather patterns for extreme weather events and air pollution and using statistical methods to project Victorian streamflows to the end of the century using downscaled CMIP5 global climate models.
PhD Project: Local and remote climate impacts of dimethyl sulfide produced by the Great Barrier Reef
Marine algae are the largest natural source of dimethyl sulfide (DMS) globally. Once released in to the atmosphere, DMS oxidises to form sulfate aerosols, which can then aid the formation of cloud condensation nuclei and subsequently affect cloud formation and surface temperatures. The role of marine algae, and the production of DMS, in climate regulation has long been debated, with no conclusive argument for or against. Algae that live in symbiosis with coral reefs are thought to be some of the largest producers of DMS and are spatially stationary, making the Great Barrier Reef the ideal natural laboratory to study this process. This project aims to use a combination of field work and modelling to help understand this complex feedback process and determine if there will be a climatic impact due to the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef.
Supervisors: Dr. Robyn Schofield and A/Prof. Todd Lane
Stephen undertook his undergraduate arts degree at the University of Adelaide with a major in Anthropology. He later completed Honours at the University of Melbourne with research into how rock-climbers perceive nature and manage the environmental impacts of their climbing practices.
Stephen was awarded a Master of Environment from the University of Melbourne in 2011 with a focus on environment policy and urban planning. His thesis examined state of the environment reporting and the relationships between knowledge, power and environmental decision-making.
He worked for the past four years as a policy adviser with the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet across a range of areas including land-use and planning, water, energy, environment and climate change.
PhD Project: Examining transitions to decarbonisation: Understanding processes of social and economic change within European and Australian communities.
Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to zero as early as possible this century in order to limit the degree of climate change, but this simple measure can disguise the myriad of choices about how to achieve this goal. Such choices could catalyse fundamental social and economic transformations, but they could also serve to reinforce existing institutions and structures of power. Stephen’s project examines how transitions towards decarbonisation are taking shape within Australia and Europe and the interplay between the top-down influence of government policies and business decisions and the bottom-up forces of technology, innovation and grassroots actions. His research asks how decarbonisation fits with broader concepts of sustainability and equity, what role the state has in making transitions feasible what can we learn from each other across different contexts and cultures.
Supervisors: Prof John Wiseman and A/Prof Monica Minnegal
Tim's research interests are diverse but centre around climate change law, broadly construed to include corporate social responsibility, torts, planning and administrative law, as well as the more traditional concern with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change-led processes and domestic climate politics.
Tim also teaches into the Melbourne Law School and Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning.
MPhil project: Justiciability and the environment – Challenging current conceptions of separation of powers in light of existential environmental threats
In simple terms, Tim’s thesis unpacks the legal hurdles which might prevent the Commonwealth being found liable in negligence for their insufficient efforts to mitigate climate change. The thesis is inspired by the judgement of The Hague District Court in Urgenda Foundation v Netherlands which did just that, compelling the state to take greater measures to abate greenhouse gas emissions than currently under way. The basis of this was a finding that the state was failing in its duty of care to its citizenry by not putting adequate measures in place to reach the 2°C target outlined in the Cancun Agreements.
Supervisors: Prof. Lee Godden and A/Prof. Jason Varuhas.
Yann grew up in France and where he obtained a Master’s in climate, ocean and atmosphere science (Pierre and Marie Curie University) as well as a Magister in theoretical physics (University of Paris-Sud). He has various research experience in oceanography (Equatorial Atlantic, Arctic, Antarctica), hydrology, cosmology and sea ice rheology at the universities of Pierre and Marie Curie, Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford, Copenhagen and McGill, respectively. After a year of field research in Benin and a sailing journey across the Arctic North-West Passage, Yann enrolled in the College in order to model national greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions scenarios following a combination of different vision of climate justice. The research project is a collaboration between the University of Melbourne and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany.
PhD Project: Avoiding dangerous climate change when nations have different concepts of climate justice
The international community has agreed to limit global warming to 2 °C and pursue 1.5 °C. Staying within this boundary implies undertaking strong mitigation commitments. At climate conferences, countries exposed different equity concepts to drive the sharing of the required mitigation. The sum of each country’s self-determined fair share of the global mitigation burden is insufficient to keep warming below 2 °C, let alone 1.5 °C. This PhD project will assess how to distribute the GHG emissions consistent with the temperature goals under a combination of effort sharing approaches. A normative method will determine coherent national mitigation targets under a combination of equity approaches. This quantitative hybrid approach adopts the distributive nature of a bottom-up approach with the stringency of a top-down approach.
Supervisors: A/Prof. Malte Meinshausen, A/Prof. Peter Christoff
Zebedee completed his undergraduate Masters course in Physics at St.John’s College, University of Oxford. There he specialised in Atmospheric and Biological Physics and completed his Masters project under the supervision of Professor Myles Allen. His thesis focussed on building a simple integrated assessment model to analyse the factors which influence how much an economically rational decision maker might choose to let the Earth warm. To contribute to discussions on future emissions pathways, he is interested in considering how we choose various warming targets and possible emissions scenarios to reach them.
PhD Project: Emissions pathways towards net zero
This project aims to develop and use simple climate models to explore possible emissions pathways towards net zero emissions. It is now widely accepted that net zero emissions are required to stabilise the climate but there is still much debate over how we get to net zero, how to consider the risk associated with various pathways and what those risks are.
The key modelling tool that will be used is the MAGICC climate model which will be updated to MAGICC7 and produce emissions and concentrations scenarios for the CMIP6 experiment. Updating the documentation and accessibility of MAGICC will be key to ensuring that this model can be widely used by the climate research community, especially for anyone who requires simple climate representations to minimise computational demands.
The output of the CMIP6 experiment will guide the development and tuning of an even simpler climate model which can then be used to explore the impact and sensitivity of future emissions scenarios. This simpler model may be more relevant for education and communication purposes as it will hopefully provide an easier access point for those with less formal training.
Supervisors: A/Prof. Malte Meinshausen, Prof. David Karoly