Job: Postdoctoral Opportunity: Optimization of Idealized Near-Zero-Emission Energy Systems

Department: DGE – Global Ecology

Salary: TBD Competitive Salary

Location: Stanford, CA

We seek to understand basic principles relating to how various cost and performance characteristics of energy technologies would affect their penetration in possible future near-zero-emission energy systems. For example, under what conditions would two different battery technologies, one with higher capital costs and round-trip efficiency and another with lower capital costs but lower round-trip efficiency, be able to co-exist in a future energy system and under what conditions would one of these battery technologies drive out the other? Similar questions can be asked about a wide range of technology choices. It is hoped that the understanding gained would inform R&D investment aimed at near-zero-emission energy system innovation, and also help indicate how deployment choices could help maintain optionality and avoid technological lock-in.

Coming from a physical science and engineering cost perspective, and putting aside political and policy constraints, we seek to define an idealized system and then solve it exactly, in the hopes that the conceptual understanding gained will inform decision-making in the real world.

Our initial focus will be on optimization of a schematic model of electricity and fuels sectors. The research will utilize a spatially-unresolved functional model of energy transformations and uses to evaluate different technical solutions for decarbonizing electricity production. Technology options include, but are not limited to: intermittent electricity generation technologies (solar, wind), energy storage (batteries, compressed air, thermal, pumped hydro, power-to-gas-to-power), flexible generation (natural gas w/ and w/o CCS, flexible nuclear, traditional hydro) and baseload generation (nuclear, coal). Electricity and heat to fuels is also of interest, as are demand side components, such as demand management and increases in demand due to vehicle electrification or power-to-fuel transitions, among others. Later analysis could involve extension to explicitly consider spatial dimensions.

A successful candidate will play a major role in planning and executing these techno-economic investigations and communicating the results through peer-reviewed publications and direct engagement with public and private technology investment and policy decision makers.

The position will involve working with Ken Caldeira at the Carnegie Institution for Science Department of Global Ecology and Adam Brandt of the Stanford Department of Energy Resources Engineering on the Stanford University campus.

We maintain an exciting collegial atmosphere, working in a diverse group that includes climate modelers, energy-system analysts, assessment experts, and field researchers. Carnegie Institution post-docs have access to most Stanford facilities.

The initial term will be for one year with the potential for renewal for a second year up to a maximum of four years. Positions are available now and we are flexible with regard to start date.

Candidates with a PhD in engineering or a related scientific or technical field, or comparable experience, are particularly encouraged to apply. Achievement in the area of scientific publication, or comparable evidence of being able to complete high quality work in a timely manner, is a primary filter determining which applications receive greater consideration. Compensation for this position includes a competitive salary and comprehensive benefits.

Informal inquiries about these positions can be made by emailing Ken Caldeira at and/or Adam Brandt at, however formal applications for employment must be submitted by clicking on the blue bar below.

To be considered, please include a cover letter and CV.

The Carnegie Institution is an equal-opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on race, sex, age, physical condition, or country of national origin.