SFI Innovative Finance Research Associate

California, United States
26 May 2019
End of advertisement period
26 Jul 2019
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Job Family: Research

Job Series: Social Science Research Professional

Job Code: 4188

Grade: H

Exemption: Exempt

1-year Fixed-term Positon

Sustainable Finance Initiative Research AssociateIndia Power Markets and Policy

Stanford’s Sustainable Finance Initiative (SFI) seeks a talented, highly motivated researcher with background in economic/financial analysis and power/energy system modeling to design policies and markets for managing India’s clean energy transition. The analysis will be informed by the needs of India’s key stakeholders – policymakers and businesses – in the power sector, with a clear focus on producing practical and implementable solutions based on rigorous analysis.

Problem background

India has ambitious renewable energy targets of 175GW by 2022 and 350GW by 2030. The targets meet multiple goals – climate mitigation, energy security, and energy access – simultaneously.

While currently at roughly 10% penetration by generation, under the stated targets the share of renewables is likely to rise to 25%, or even higher. This energy transition brings up issues related to assessing flexibility needs to manage variable and intermittent renewables and for designing power markets that can facilitate integration of this renewable capacity, by procuring not only energy but also ancillary services and balancing resources, in a cost-effective and reliable manner.

Currently, India has approximately 200GW of coal plants, a number that is likely to grow to 250GW by 2022 and 300GW by 2027. In presence of high renewable penetration, a lot of this coal capacity will be underutilized. In this context, a particularly thorny issue is the management of stranded assets – especially, coal-based power plants – due to the availability of plentiful and cheap renewable power.

Finally, with more than one-quarter of the population without electricity, India faces key issues around providing universal energy access. Further, even in cases where energy access is present, reliability of supply is a big issue. This raises questions around scaling energy access using innovative approaches such as mini-grids, via well-defined public-private partnerships that allow scaling of self-sustaining business models.

Problem structure

The project has three components.

First, a power market/policy design that manages the integration of high renewable energy penetration in a cost-effective and reliable manner. The output of this exercise would not only identify appropriate technology options but also policies for integrating these technology options effectively and efficiently. For example, for the long-term, this would require resource planning along with design of contracts that would ensure required investments. In the short-term, this would require co-design/optimization of energy, ancillary service and balancing service markets. High renewables penetration will also require designing complementary (e.g., procurement) policies for managing flexibility, via demand side management, power plant cycling and batteries. These policies would be based on sound economic/optimization analysis as well as best practices and may require running capacity planning as well as production cost (e.g., PLEXOS) models.

Second, a part of the policy package would be management of potentially stranded coal plants, including options for retirement as well conversion to flexible plants, where the former category would apply to coal plants that are no longer needed whereas the latter category would be coal plants that can still be used to provide flexibility. This would require not only identification of such coal plants via power system simulations but also designing finance-based interventions that allow for win-win situations – based on understanding of underlying cost-structures, revenue models, and resulting profit streams – for ratepayers, developers, and workers. These interventions would then need to be applied to the whole fleet of such coal plants.

Third, currently, both public-sector distribution companies and private developers are competing to provide electricity access. This is not an ideal situation for both parties – the distribution companies, while mandated to provide electricity access, lose a lot of money to provide electricity to remote customers. Whereas the private developers, who have good control over customer/operations, are unable to get financing due to the grid-extension risk. In order to provide 100% electricity access 24x7, effective and efficient policy packages would need to be designed to allow for well-functioning public-private partnerships in the current regulatory context. A specific project would be economic/financial modeling of value creation through such partnerships and identifying how value could be shared among different partners, including the private sector, to create win-win situations.

Researchers interested in learning more about the context on these projects are encouraged to read the following: (a) a paper on energy system transitions around the world, including in India; (b) a paper on power markets for managing energy system transitions; and (c) a paper on flexibility requirements in India as well as compensation for flexibility through existing coal plants.

Essential Qualifications

The research will have both quantitative (e.g., cost-benefit/cash-flow analysis, optimization/probability, econometrics/statistics, power system modeling) as well as qualitative (e.g., literature review, case studies) components. The SFI Research Associate would also help in conducting primary research by participating in meetings and writing meeting summaries.

The SFI Research Associate will work on a set of specific variables within a global team that includes representatives and analysts from across the spectrum of institutions described above. In particular, there will be the opportunity to contribute to integrating these individual analyses into the new concept for model development.

The following prescribes the required/preferred qualifications in more detail:

  • The ideal researcher would have quantitative and qualitative skills, specifically:
    • Quantitative: e.g., cost-benefit/cash-flow analysis, optimization/probability, econometrics/statistics, power system modeling
    • Qualitative: e.g., literature review, case studies.
  • A recent PhD (or MS with equivalent experience) in one of the following areas: economics, operations research, management science and engineering, or equivalent.
  • A familiarity with energy systems, in particular power systems.
  • Exposure to developing countries is desirable, in particular India.
  • An insightful, independent, analytical mind with a strong track record of best-in-class analysis and critical thinking that has had a measurable impact.
  • Demonstrable ability to influence key stakeholders at the highest level.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills to articulate methods, insights and recommendations from complex qualitative and quantitative analysis in a compelling and influential way both internally and to expert and non-technical audiences.
  • Experience of influential engagement with executive-level engagement, comfort working alongside high­ ranking government officials, leaders in finance and industry, as well as academic experts and research organizations.
  • Professionalism and enthusiasm for working with a diverse team in a collegiate and productive manner.
  • Familiarity with machine learning programming a plus. 

All interested and qualified applicants must follow these steps in order to apply:

All applicants must apply via the Stanford Careers website http://stanfordcareers.stanford.edu/job-search. Please search by selecting ‘Precourt Institute for Energy’ in the ‘Location’ search field. Please submit the following materials:

  1. A cover letter;
  2. A curriculum vitae;
  3. List of three references.

Note: Not all unique aspects of the job are covered by this job description


Perform work to support research or develop public programs and policies requiring a high degree of scientific knowledge. Supervise and train less experienced colleagues and provide consultation.


  • Assist principal investigators with designing experiments constituting a phase of a research project for which precedents are few; conduct experiments which may involve coordinating a complex experimental protocol.
  • Independently identify/modify standard procedures based on judgment concerning the general goals of a project; select approaches in developing, testing, and evaluating new methods.
  • Lead or participate in multidisciplinary teams (in academia, across different faculties or schools, and in industry, across different functions of the business).
  • Co-author all or sections of a report for publication or professional presentation with the work being reviewed by the principal investigator or faculty.
  • Present ongoing work and findings to colleagues at academic conferences.
  • Collaborate with the principal investigator to design a research approach of a project and/or integrate results of the entire project.
  • Complete project-related administrative and budgetary responsibilities of a limited scope as needed.
  • Formally supervise and train new staff or students, including hiring, performance management, and related duties, in addition to instruction on techniques and consultation on project work.
  • - Other duties may also be assigned


Education & Experience:

Graduate degree in an applicable social science related field and five years of applicable experience, or combination of education and relevant experience in an applicable social science.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

  • Expert level knowledge and skills in field of science related to research project.
  • General computer skills and ability to quickly learn and master computer programs.
  • Strong analytical skills and excellent judgment.
  • Ability to work under deadlines with general guidance.
  • Excellent organizational skills and demonstrated ability to complete detailed work accurately.
  • Demonstrated oral and written communication skills.
  • Ability to work with human study participants.
  • Supervisory skills.

Certifications and Licenses:



  • Frequently perform desk-based computer tasks, grasp lightly/fine manipulation, lift/carry/push/pull objects that weigh up to 10 pounds.
  • Occasionally stand/walk, sit, use a telephone, writing by hand, and sort/file paperwork or parts.
  • Rarely twist/bend/stoop/squat, kneel/crawl, rarely reach/work above shoulders, operate foot and/or hand controls.
  • - Consistent with its obligations under the law, the University will provide reasonable accommodation to any employee with a disability who requires accommodation to perform the essential functions of the job.


  • May be exposed to blood borne pathogens.
  • May be required to work non-standard, extended or weekend hours in support of research work.


  • Interpersonal Skills: Demonstrates the ability to work well with Stanford colleagues and clients and with external organizations.
  • Promote Culture of Safety: Demonstrates commitment to personal responsibility and value for safety; communicates safety concerns; uses and promotes safe behaviors based on training and lessons learned.
  • Subject to and expected to comply with all applicable University policies and procedures, including but not limited to the personnel policies and other policies found in the University's Administrative Guide, http://adminguide.stanford.edu.

Additional Information

  • Schedule: Full-time
  • Job Code: 4188
  • Employee Status: Fixed-Term
  • Grade: H