About the project

ENSYSTRA will train 15 PhD researchers in all aspects of energy systems transition. The process of moving from an energy system based on fossil fuels towards an energy system with limited CO2 emissions, energy efficiency, and energy security has far-reaching implications for technologies, infrastructure, market organisation, consumer behaviour and governance. Such energy transition requires that technical sciences, social sciences and the humanities work together. We aim to train energy professionals with an integrated understanding to become experts in the front line of the energy transition.

North Sea – Leading region in the transition

The case study of ENSYSTRA is the North Sea Region – a frontrunner region of the energy transition and a ‘living lab’ where more or less all variables of the energy transition are present.

The North Sea region is currently one of the biggest oil and gas hubs in Europe. At the same time, it is a leading region in the transition to a sustainable energy system. The North Sea region is one of the largest potential areas for wind energy in Europe and has important potential for large scale macro algae and wave energy. There are major possibilities to integrate these energy sources into existing grids, to deploy Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), to develop bioenergy facilities which use existing infrastructure, and eventually to integrate new biomass conversion capacity with CCS infrastructure, offering opportunities for large scale negative emission facilities (bio-CCS). Furthermore, also the intermittent capacity on land (PV, wind, bioenergy and biogas) in the regions around the North Sea is increasing, alongside ambitious improvements in energy efficiency in the industry and built environment, which results in both changing supply and demand patterns. The intermittent capacity is sizable and is expected to increase considerably. The implications for the integration of power, heat and transportation infrastructure and industrial capacity are considerable. In the North Sea region, with its well-established national electricity grids, gas grids and district heating networks, many variables are in place to study and find strategies for successful and efficient transition strategies.

Besides the technological opportunities and developments of the North Sea, also the wide variety of markets and political and legal systems make this an important region to study energy transition. The transition to a more climate compatible energy system coincides with the ongoing transition to a competitive European energy market. The energy sector in the EU member states is changing from a national, often centrally planned sector, to an international energy sector with competition. The sector continues to change due to altering market conditions, new policies and regulations, affecting all players in the system. New relationships between individuals and companies are established and actors in the system are assuming new, non-traditional roles. The variety of markets, political and legal systems in countries around the North Sea is large, and harmonized strategies are increasingly needed. Additionally, the regions around the North Sea are culturally varied. This enables a comparison of local factors, and the study of the most appropriate strategies depending on such contextual factors.

Research projects

ENSYSTRA will focus on four main research lines. The project is designed to look at the interaction of technology, behaviour and governance, and to investigate how these interactions feed into and are linked to whole energy systems. PhD subjects range from energy systems modelling, scenario analysis, technology development, socio-technical cultures, participatory approaches, investment modelling, market design and cross-border regulatory frameworks.

Interdisciplinary cooperation

In ENSYSTRA all researchers will intensively interact with each other through joint research.
Each PhD will be trained in state-of-the-art science in each of the relevant fields of energy system analysis, and also be guided in how to combine methodologies, data and insights from those disciplines. Key of the programme will be to make the crucial connections between different methods and modelling approaches in energy system analysis, technology development, actor behaviour and in the interplay with markets and regulatory frameworks.

Open science

ENSYSTRA aims to contribute to better accessible energy science. Research in ENSYSTRA based the principles of open -source, -data, -access and –knowledge.

Intersectoral cooperation

An important component of the project is the cooperation between the young researchers and the energy sector. Every ESR will work with one or more of the 23 ENSYSTRA partners from the energy sector. The cooperation ensures that academic insights are translated to business and that business insights are incorporated in the research projects. Through on the job training, mentoring, company visits, lectures, and joint research the companies will contribute to the training of professionals who gain the relevant technical and business skills. In this way we aim to train experts for science, front-runner businesses and other organisations that will shape the energy transition.


ENSYSTRA will provide Early Stage Researchers (ESRs)with academic research training, training in general “transferrable” skills, and ‘on the job’ training in the energy sector. Part of this programme are the training weeks of the ENSYSTRA network.

Overview of the ENSYSTRA network training events:

Workshop 1

Introduction to Energy Systems in Transition in the North Sea Region (Groningen, Netherlands).

16-20 April 2018

Summer School 1

Modelling Energy Systems 1: Setting the Interdisciplinary Stage (Flensburg, Germany).

Summer 2018

Workshop 2

Energy Economics: Markets, Investments and Business (Edinburgh, UK).

Jan 2019

Summer School 2

Energy Law, Policy, Planning and Governance (Groningen, Netherlands).

June 2019

Workshop 3

Modelling Energy Systems 2: (a) what do we learn from different types of models, (b) strengths and weaknesses of different approaches (Göteborg, Sweden).

Fall 2019

Workshop 4

Future Sustainable Energy Systems: Technology and Innovation for Renewable and Low Carbon Energy (Stavanger, Norway).

March 2020

Summer School 3

Energy Cultures: Participation and Consumer Interactions in the Energy System (Aalborg, Denmark).

June/July 2020

Scientific Conference

Energy Systems in Transition: What can we learn from the North Sea case?

March 2021

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No: 765515.

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