Postdoctoral Fellowship: Urban Transformation in South Africa Through Co-Designing Energy Services Provision Pathways


Postdoctoral Fellowship: Urban Transformation in South Africa Through Co-Designing Energy Services Provision Pathways

 The Energy Research Centre (ERC) is a multi-disciplinary centre at the University of Cape Town, which pursues excellence in technology, policy and sustainable development research, education and capacity building programs at a local and international level. The centre is inviting applications from candidates with a relevant background in: energy studies, international development, geography, sociology, or other relevant backgrounds.

 Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates for a postdoctoral fellowship for research on urban energy transitions in South Africa. The project is part of a Newton Fund multi-partner collaboration between South Africa and the United Kingdom, which is being implemented by the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre.

Project description:

Energy transitions, involving changes to both systems of energy supply and demand, are fundamental processes behind the development of human societies and are driven by technical, economic, political and social factors. South African cities are highly dependent on energy, and access to and the provision of energy services affects urban energy transitions. Furthermore, access to affordable and reliable energy services is fundamental to reducing poverty and advancing economic growth. In response to this, many cities in South Africa and beyond have adopted sustainable energy provision strategies and solutions as a way of promoting economic development and greening of urban economies. Cities in South Africa are notable for their central role in the governance of energy. However, much remains to be done in order to transform South African cities towards a more sustainable urban energy profile, which is in turn aimed at improving welfare, supporting economic activity, creating ‘green collar’ and other jobs, and reducing carbon emissions.

 This project investigates the dynamics and co-evolution of municipal processes so as to create pathways to new, greener and fairer urban energy configurations. The project establishes a dialogue between work on socio-technical transitions and on energy geographies to analyze and identify energy transition pathways towards municipal-scale energy services regimes. The project’s embeddedness in ongoing urban energy transition work will provide an evidence-base for co-designing pathways for energy services provision in South Africa’s cities, alongside exploring opportunities in new energy configurations for transformations to urban green economies.

 It is expected that the researcher will conduct primary research in 2-3 South African cities, contribute to case study research and take an active role in the participatory activities concerning co-design of energy services provision pathway.

 Value and tenure:

We offer a postdoctoral fellowship funded via the National Research Foundation valued at R150,000 per annum.  The tenure of the fellowship is one year, and renewal for one further year is contingent of satisfactory academic progress. 

 The successful applicant will conduct research on urban energy transitions, transformation and municipal energy provision in South African cities. In addition, the postdoctoral research fellow will have the opportunity to contribute to existing research in the Energy, Poverty and Development Group (via subcontracting), for example, investigating energy use and gender dynamics in the informal sector in urban and peri-urban areas; willingness to pay for reliable electricity and developing new proposals.

Specifically, the postdoctoral researcher will be involved in two work packages, covering:

  1. Energy poverty, livelihood opportunities and Inclusive transformation. This work package explores the urban livelihood opportunities that emerge from energy experiments. how they affect urban energy poverty; and the barriers and opportunities for addressing energy poverty and creating livelihood opportunities.
  2. Co-design of energy services provision pathways. This work stream focuses on the co-design of energy services provision pathways with municipalities and encompasses a range of case studies

 Conditions of Award:

-          Applicants are required to have achieved the doctoral degree on a topic related to urban energy provision, poverty and livelihoods, and energy transitions. The degree should have been conferred no longer than 5 years ago.

-          Applicants may not have held any prior academic or professional posts.

-          Excellent qualitative research and communication skills are required.,

-          The successful applicant will have a strong commitment to participatory and applied research and the ability to assist with the co-design participatory processes, as well as the ability to work independently.

-          Relevant experience of working in South Africa as well as the ability to undertake travel to 2-3unicipalities in South Africa is required.

-          Applicants should have excellent analytical writing skills in English

-          Proficiency in any of the local languages – besides English  - and strong theoretical thinking skills in the field of energy transitions would be an advantage

 Please contact for research related questions.

 Submit complete applications to by 31 December 2016. Interviews (in-person or Skype) will be held in January.

 Starting date: March 2017 or earliest possible date thereafter. 

 Applications should include:

 A letter of motivation, outlining how the applicant matches the requirements of the position outlined above

  1. A full Curriculum Vitae – max 4 pages
  2. A research statement demonstrating a future research plan and areas of expertise - max 2 pages
  3. Two writing samples – in English(in PDF format)
  4. The names and contact details of three referees, of which at least 2 must be academics.

 Eligible and complete applications will be considered by the ERC and we will communicate with short-listed applicants. If you have not heard within two months of the deadline, please assume your application has been unsuccessful. Pleas refrain from applying for funding of on-going projects with supervision outside the ERC.

 UCT reserves the right to disqualify ineligible, incomplete and/or inappropriate applications. UCT reserves the right to change the conditions of award or to make no award at all.