Ph.D. Scholarship with Professor Hannah Daly

Ph.D. Title: Achieving universal access to clean fuels and technologies within households: synergies and trade-offs with climate action goals

We are looking for a highly motivated and talented individual to join our team and contribute to our cutting-edge research in energy systems decarbonisation and the Sustainable Development Goals. As a MaREI Ph.D. candidate, you will have the opportunity to conduct independent research, collaborate with our team of experts, and publish your findings in top-tier journals. This opportunity offers full funding for Ph.D. fees at University College Cork for 4 years, a tax-free stipend of €18,500 per year, and a generous allowance for travel expenses.


Sustainable Development Goal number 7 (SDG 7) targets the achievement of universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030. This goal is far off track: three billion people in developing countries still rely on polluting fuels for cooking and heating, including wood, peat, coal, and animal waste, leading to severe and negative consequences for health, gender equality, and development.

Developed countries also face negative consequences: In Ireland, inadequate thermal insulation and ventilation and the use of solid fuels for heating, as well as the high cost of energy, leaves up to a third of households in energy poverty, with poor air quality, both indoors and outdoors, damaging health. Particulate matter (PM) arising from solid fuel use for heating causes an estimated 1300 premature deaths annually, and rates of childhood asthma are among the highest in the world. Climate action – through improving the thermal comfort of buildings and decarbonising heating and cooking – can bring very substantial benefits for health if policy is well targeted. However, climate mitigation policies may exacerbate energy poverty if the cost of clean energy increases without adequate planning to protect vulnerable households. In addition to the human cost of the lack of clean energy access, the environmental impact can be significant as unsustainable consumption of wood fuel can be a source of greenhouse gases, particularly methane and black carbon when combustion is inefficient, and a driver of deforestation.

Ph.D. research topic:

Achieving universal access to clean fuels and technologies within households: synergies and trade-offs with climate action goals

This research project will investigate climate mitigation pathways in the residential sector, in both developed and developing countries, through the lens of SDG 7, asking how decarbonisation can be achieved in a way to help bring about access to cleaner, modern fuels and technologies in homes. In particular, the research will focus on climate mitigation planning tools – energy systems optimisation models (ESOMs) and Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) – which to date typically do not explicitly represent clean energy access and will develop methodologies to include SDG 7 within the models.

The following are indicative research areas this project will examine:

  • Quantifying the number of people living in developed countries relying on unhealthy fuels for cooking and heating (i.e., not achieving the SDG 7 target), and comparing this to the landscape in developing countries, which is qualified by the World Bank
  • Investigating how the representation of energy access can be improved in models
  • Examining the interplay between domestic solid fuel use and land-use emissions
  • Understanding the role of providing universal electricity access in developing countries in achieving clean cooking access goals, particularly with off-grid and mini-grid solutions.

Qualifications/Skills required:

The ideal candidate for this position should have:

  • A strong drive to understand and propose solutions to climate change and sustainability issues
  • An academic background and good primary degree in a quantitative topic related to sustainable energy and knowledge of climate mitigation
  • Intellectual curiosity, excellent research and analytical skills, and the ability to work independently
  • Proven ability to communicate findings effectively, both in writing and orally.

Research group:

The successful candidate will be supervised by Professor Hannah Daly in UCC’s MaREI Centre at the Environmental Research Institute. MaREI is the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine research and innovation co-ordinated by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork. The Centre comprises over 220 researchers focusing on defined global challenges such as the Energy Transition, Climate Action and the Blue Economy. The successful candidate will join Professor Daly’s group of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, working within the ERI Energy Policy and Modelling Group, who develop high-impact energy systems models to inform and explore future decarbonisation pathways. The candidate will be co-supervised by Dr. Steve Pye at University College London (UCL)’s Energy Institute, a tremendous opportunity to collaborate across world-class research institutes.  

The ERBE Ph.D. Programme:

The successful candidate will also join the SFI and EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE), which brings together world-leading academics from established energy research centres at the MaREI Centre, Loughborough University (LU) and University College London (UCL). This CDT trains future innovators and leaders capable of driving future energy transformation. Students are trained through a programme of taught courses and Ph.D. research hosted by the leading energy research groups in the UK and Ireland. The training is led by world leaders in their field and spans the technical, social and economic aspects of energy in the built environment, including new and renewable energy systems; energy storage; smart controls; data analytics; socio-technical systems; people-centred design; human behaviour and energy economics. It aims to promote excellence in research through the training of cohorts of doctoral students and the fostering of collaboration between UK and Ireland-based researchers.

How to apply: Applications should be emailed to ei.ccu@ebre by 5 pm on January 9th, 2023, with the subject line: ERBE 2023 Ph.D. Application. Informal enquiries can be directed to Prof. Hannah Daly (ei.ccu@ylad.h).

Download the Application Form here.

Your email application must contain the following documents as PDF attachments:

  1. An up-to-date CV
  2. Completed application form outlining your suitability for this role and your motivation for undertaking this Ph.D.
  3. Academic writing sample (for example, journal paper, report, or project)

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview on January 27th, 2023.