Phd Position Responsible and Explainable AI for system operation in electrical power distribution

Required language
Dutch, English


Are you concerned about the energy transition? And curious and critical about what are the right ways to use AI systems to contribute to solutions? 

Job description

TU Delft is a top tier university and is exceedingly active in the field of Artificial intelligence and the TU Delft's campus has strong expertise in energy systems as well as the design and governance of complex sociotechnical systems. Energy systems are the backbone of our modern society, but are becoming increasingly complex and challenging to operate as renewable energy, heating and transport sectors are integrated into the system. It’s crucially important that energy systems are sustainable, safe, reliable and socially just, now and in the future. Contributing to this vision, the newly Energy Grids Lab unites TU Delft, Radboud University, University of Twente, HAN University of Applied Sciences and Alliander.

Alliander is a Distribution system operator there to maintain, operate the medium-low voltage grid and connect end-users with generators to the transmission high-voltage grid. With the goal to enhance the transport capability of the distribution grid, this lab aims to address distinct challenges arising in the Netherlands and the thousands of distribution grids worldwide. This lab focuses on two ways of impact towards extending the grid capability where one improves the grid operations and the other investigates targeted infrastructure expansions. This lab combines the expertise of Alliander data scientists and electrical engineers, the latest digitalization programs that make grid data available, with the academic expertise on methods from artificial intelligence enabling the lab's scientific success and broader global impact. Alliander is one of the frontrunners worldwide as a DSO in applying smart algorithms and AI, it is also one of the places where the limits of existing methods and available commercial software surface.

This PhD project focuses on the responsible integration of AI capabilities in the system operation of energy grids, in an attempt to empower both the operator (using the AI capabilities) as well as citizens and companies in the network (participating in active distribution management with their local energy resources such as batteries or solar installations). Emerging AI capabilities trigger new questions about how to ensure public values, such as safety, accountability and energy justice, are protected and designed into the broader sociotechnical system in an integral manner. This requires an interdisciplinary lens on studying, designing and governing energy systems that incorporates insights from a variety of fields from engineering, social sciences and humanities.

This PhD project will take existing/emerging technical methods for AI-based distribution system operation and bring these into conversation with methods in comprehensive systems engineering, human-computer interaction and design. This will lead to more effective AI solutions that support the operator in managing grids with high level of renewable penetration and electrification, and promote and protect the diverse needs of citizens by enablings broader participation.

The position resides at the Faculty for Technology, Policy and Management, in the Engineering Systems and Services department, where you work with Dr. Roel Dobbe and Prof. Zofia Lukszo. You will collaborate actively with Prof. Mark Neerincx in the Interactive Intelligence Group at the Faculty for Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science.


We seek a societally engaged engineer who loves to build things but is also intrinsically inclined to do so with a critical eye towards societal implications. Possible degree backgrounds are either a computer science field, an engineering field or a interdisciplinary field such as information systems or systems engineering and management, as long as you have a track record of building systems. You need to have experience with design in an engineering domain (electricity is a plus, but not necessary), and be versed in programming and data-driven methods (e.g. statistical learning, econometrics, artificial intelligence, control theory, optimization). Affinity with design methods, participatory methods or STS is a plus.

This position is a unique opportunity to develop yourself as an interdisciplinary scholar in the sociotechnical treatment of AI systems. It is not focused on building AI in theory, you will be going out in the world to build and study what is built, while engaging with domain experts, citizens, policymakers and other important stakeholders. You also need to have a drive and openness to work with other disciplines from social sciences and humanities. The department and mentorship provide a welcome, safe and fun place to do such bridge building work, while making sure you progress towards recognized contributions in this emerging field.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Technology, Policy and Management

The Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management (TPM) at TU Delft contributes to sustainable solutions for technological challenges in society by combining the insights from engineering with the humanities and the social sciences. The PhD-student will be positioned in the Engineering Systems and Services (ESS) department. The core activity of the department is to model, understand, forecast, and shape emerging technological innovations and user patterns in the increasingly interconnected sectors of energy, industry, mobility and ICT; and use these insights for improved design, regulation and operation of such engineering systems. ESS aims to contribute to the scholarly debate at the highest international level, and is rooted in both engineering and social sciences.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management.

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Roel Dobbe, e-mail: (do not send your application to this email adress). 

For information about the application procedure, please contact Olivie Beek, HR advisor, e-mail:

Application procedure

Please, submit your application online no later than September 20, 2022.

To apply, please submit the following:

  • Motivation letter (max 1 page), addressed to Roel Dobbe
  • A short CV (max 2 pages) including a list of publications.
  • An example of academic writing, paper, essay or part of your thesis.

Please note:

  • You can only apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and / or post.
  • Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • A pre-Employment screening can be part of the selection procedure
  • Acquisition in response to this vacancy is not appreciated.