PhD position in assessing the environmental impacts of future global hydropower expansion

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Trondheim, Norway 🇳🇴

This is NTNU

NTNU is a broad-based university with a technical-scientific profile and a focus in professional education. The university is located in three cities with headquarters in Trondheim.

At NTNU, 9,000 employees and 42,000 students work to create knowledge for a better world.

You will find more information about working at NTNU and the application process here.

Research Collaboration in Sustainability

In 2015, the 2030 agenda with the 17 sustainability goals was adopted by all UN member states. The sustainability goals see the environment, economy and social development in context. The time horizon for necessary changes is short, and it is challenging to combine different considerations without conflicts of objectives and unintended consequences of measures.

NTNU is now announcing 43 individual PhD positions that will contribute to a greater understanding of system effects, societal changes and conflicts of interest related to the sustainability challenges. These positions are divided into 9 interdisciplinary projects with mainly 4-7 PhD positions in each project. Read more about the Research Collaboration and the projects here.

In this position, the candidate is expected to cooperate with the other PhD students in the project SusHydro – Sustainable hydropower development and reservoir management as an enabler of the renewable energy transition and an accelerator to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

About the position

The position is part of the SusHydro project that seeks to find innovative and cross-sectoral solutions that shed light on a wider range of services that hydropower and water reservoirs can contribute and shed light on how synergies and conflicts between different sustainability goals can be identified and balanced. SusHydro will do this by putting together a team of experienced professionals and talented young researchers with a background in hydrology and water resource analysis, life cycle assessment, modeling of the energy system, economics, biology and social sciences. Solutions will be developed through case studies in Norway and areas of Africa with rich hydropower resources.

The topic of this specific PhD project is the development of life cycle assessment (LCA) models and applications related to hydropower production. The idea is to use life cycle assessment (LCA) to make a global impact screening of planned and possible hydropower reservoirs on a global scale. The project will build on previous work of the Industrial Ecology Programme which quantified the impacts of land use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions of reservoir operations on biodiversity. In addition, the project should consider impacts from the dam construction, other ecosystem impacts, as well as impacts on human well-being. The LCA results can inform other PhD projects in the SusHydro project about potential hotspots of impacts and will highlight where detailed local studies can be performed. We will develop scenarios for transformative electricity market changes and analyse the differences in impacts, based on input from the other PhD projects to calibrate the model. These scenarios and storylines of the scenarios will be adopted throughout the project.

Interdisciplinary collaboration within the SusHydro project and the Industrial Ecology group are envisaged.

The Industrial Ecology Programme (IndEcol) is a well-established interdisciplinary group in the field of environmental sustainability analysis. Researchers at IndEcol participate in international expert groups, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Resource Panel (IRP), the Life Cycle Initiative hosted by UN Environment, as well as international collaborative projects.

The Head of Department is Professor Terese LøvĂĄs. The position’s supervisor is Professor Francesca Verones, the co-supervisors are Professor Tor Haakon Bakken (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) and researchers Irja Ida Ratikainen (Department of Biology) and Martin Dorber (Industrial Ecology Programme).

Duties of the position

  • Designing scenarios for transformative changes influencing the hydropower sector
  • Collect data and develop life cycle inventory models for the construction and operation of hydropower dams
  • Update and further develop impact assessment models related to impacts from hydropower dams
  • Application of the inventory and impact assessment models in a global screening and the scenarios
  • Dissemination of results in scholarly journals and at international conferences

Required selection criteria

  • Professionally relevant background in hydrology, industrial ecology, environmental science/engineering, ecology or similar. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in other disciplines will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Your education must correspond to a five-year Norwegian degree programme, where 120 credits are obtained at master’s level
  • Strong academic background from your previous studies and an average grade from the master’s degree program, or equivalent education, which is equal to B or better compared with NTNU’s grading scale.
  • Proven analytical and computational capabilities, in courses and or/thesis deliverables
  • Proven written and oral English communication skills
  • Experience in GIS systems (e.g., ArcGIS, QGIS) 
  • Experience in use of programming for environmental data (Python)

The appointment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and Regulations concerning the degrees of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) and Philosodophiae Doctor (PhD) in artistic research national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant  

Preferred selection criteria

  • Good understanding of the role of hydropower in the energy system
  • Completed courses in life cycle assessments
  • Study background or courses in hydrology or ecology/biology/ecosystem services
  • Experience in use of another programming language for environmental data (e.g. R, Matlab)
  • Experience in performing LCA with Brightway
  • Knowledge in Norwegian language

Personal characteristics

  • Self-motivated, enthusiastic and dedicated
  • Ambitious and goal-oriented
  • Excellent collaboration and communication skills
  • Open to inter-disciplinary scientific cooperation
  • Interested in interdisciplinary research and adopting new perspectives
  • Motivated to solve environmental problems and advance sustainability

We offer

Salary and conditions

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 491 200 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 3 to 4 years (with possibility for 1 year pliktarbeid).

Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme in Industrial Ecology within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution daily.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline. You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. 

The application must include: 

  • CV, certificates and diplomas 
  • Motivation letter
  • transcripts and diplomas for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. If you have not completed the master’s degree, you must submit a confirmation that the master’s thesis has been submitted. 
  • Name and address of three referees 
  • If you have publications or other relevant research work 

If all, or parts, of your education has been taken abroad, we also ask you to attach documentation of the scope and quality of your entire education, both bachelor’s and master’s education, in addition to other higher education. Description of the documentation required can be found here. If you already have a statement from NOKUT, please attach this as well.

Joint works will be considered. If it is difficult to identify your contribution to joint works, you must attach a brief description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal and interpersonal qualities. Motivation, ambitions, and potential will also count in the assessment of the candidates. 

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment – DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background. 

The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

In accordance with The Public Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Professor Francesca Verones, e-mail: [email protected]. If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact HR-consultant Renate Fjellheim, e-mail: [email protected].

Please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. If you have education from China, you are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from China Credentials Verification (CHSI).

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters. Please refer to the application number IV-243/21 when applying.

Application deadline: 07.01.2022