At the end of this year, Anubhav Ratha will present his thesis at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Copenhagen. Ratha is part of the PhD programme at VITO/EnergyVille. He researches sustainable energy system models from the perspective of the free market, combining theory and practice, the two specific strengths of DTU and VITO/EnergyVille.  

Before you started your PhD in Copenhagen, you had already followed quite a trajectory. 

‘I grew up in east India where I did my Bachelor studies. Then I studied at ETH Zürich (a top Swiss university) where I obtained my Master as an electrical engineer. I was already interested then in electricity markets and how they are modelled and designed theoretically.  

After my studies, I set up a start-up in demand response technology with a friend, but this was not very successful. So, I ended up back in India where I started working for General Electric. But I was still very much attracted to research. In 2018, when I saw an announcement for a PhD at DTU and VITO/EnergyVille on LinkedIn, I was excited to apply.’ 

What attracted you to the energy and electricity domain? 

‘The correlation of energy networks and markets, in all their complexity has fascinated me for years. Especially the theoretical aspects appeal to me, let’s say the modelling work that is done behind a computer. My DTU promotors are very known for their expertise in energy market and analytics. 

At the same time, the energy transition is now strongly evolving, so the relevance of practical research cannot be underestimated. This aspect is more present in VITO/EnergyVille, where the focus is more on scientifically-based policy advice, so closer to implementation and decision-making. My VITO team is involved in multiple EU projects on energy markets and flexibility integration with various industrial and academic partners.’   

What exactly is your PhD about?  

‘For a successful energy transition, it is crucial to integrate vast amounts of unpredictable fluctuating renewable electricity sources like sun and wind energy. This demands higher flexibility from the whole system, for example, the integration of storage from batteries. But I have a holistic approach, looking at it from a multi-carrier energy system point of view. It implies harvesting flexibility from sources beyond just electricity, i.e. from coordination with other energy systems such as natural gas or district heating or future green energy carriers like hydrogen.’  

And you do this from a market perspective?

‘The challenge is to adapt the energy markets so that various actors have the right economic incentives to coordinate towards reaching a decarbonized energy system. The closer the cooperation among the actors, the more flexibility that can be achieved, which then leads to a larger share of renewables in the system.’ 

You do all this from behind your computer? 

‘Sometimes it may seem as if I am designing a computer game simulating markets, and then we change the economic rules afterwards to see what happens. But we do work with real-world data. And, even more importantly, our conclusions are relevant for the European Commission and governments in creating an energy market vision for a zero-carbon economy.’ 

Were you able to visit VITO/EnergyVille during the corona pandemic?  

‘No, the last time I was there was in 2019. But for me, that has not been a big issue, as our remote collaboration works well. On the contrary, since video meetings have now become the standard, I was able to attend many more meetings and events than in normal times.’  

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