Centre for Sustainability

Master's thesis topics

We welcome new graduate students and encourage them to embark on their master's thesis research with the Centre for Sustainability. Prof. Christian Flachsland and Prof. Lion Hirth offer their supervision for theses within climate, energy, and sustainability topics for students using both quantitative and qualitative methods. In some topics, our PhD candidates as well as postdoctoral researchers will co-supervise.

Moreover, we strongly encourage our students to work with practice partners and are willing to support them in connecting with professionals in the field of energy and environment. We have had very good experiences with collaborations, e.g. with researchers at the MCC or the HEEN network.

For more information on the master's thesis processes, please also consult the Curricular Affairs Team.

For information on 2023-2024 master's thesis topics, please see the supervision profiles below, and join us on June 1, 2023 at 14:00 for an online information session about writing your master's thesis with Centre for Sustainability faculty.

Faculty supervision information

Professor Christian Flachsland

Prof. Christian Flachsland is an interdisciplinary social scientist employing mostly qualitative methods but often engaging in quantitative projects, too. He can support you with writing a thesis on institutional analysis and design of climate policy instrument mixes; political economy of climate and energy policy; governance of climate policy, employing e.g. policy integration frameworks; the role of discourse and narratives in climate and energy policy, in particular in the German Energiewende; international climate policy, in particular EU climate and energy policy, the UNFCCC regime, international flexibility mechanisms; and the science-policy interface. 

Proposed project topics for 2023/2024 cohort:

1. Climate institutions

Analysing climate institutions in various countries (e.g. Mexico)

  • Drawing on novel framework in upcoming Ariadne report, characterize national institutions for climate policy in a  country (e.g. Mexico)
  • Elicit effects of these institutions from literature and interviews

Comparing Climate Change Advisory Councils

  • Carefully characterize the formal mandate and actual practice of 2-4 climate advisory councils
  • Elicit their effects from literature and interviews
  • Compare councils across countries
  • Alternative focus: Examine formation of networks across national climate change councils (e.g. in EU context)

Characterize institutions for sectoral (vertical) coordination for renewables and hydrogen in Germany

  • Descriptively analyse the institutions for coordinate renewables and H2 expansion as part of German climate policy, especially across different levels of governance (municipal, Länder, Federal, EU)
  • Building on literature review and interviews

Comparing institutions for compensation in energy transitions

  • Descriptively analyse the institutions for implementing compensation as part of the German coal exit
  • Compare with mandate of novel Australia Net Zero Authority / or other countries’ institutional arrangements
  • Embed in literature on compensation options

2. International Climate policy

Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs)

  • Reconstruct and possibly compare different JETPs (South Africa, Vietnam, …)
  • Examine role of national stakeholders in formation of JETPs – are domestic political economies taken into account
  • Can JETPs under preparation make a difference for domestic energy transitions?

EU Commission Critical Raw Materials Act proposal

  • What are the key goals and instruments of the CRMA? Do goals align well with the broader international challenges the EU is facing, and are instruments suited to achieve the stated goals?
  • Reconstruct and analyze German (or other member state) position on CRMA

Interministerial coordination in climate diplomacy [challenging]

  • Examine how national ministries coordinate within a whole-of-government approach
  • What does the practice of coordinating look like?
  • What are procedual and substantive tensions about? Why do certain ministries get the lead for certain issues? How does the expectation of the process affect plans within ministries?
  • Illustrate by process tracing a specific case (G7 club, Strategy, L&D fund, JETP)

3. Policy instruments / political economy

Policy sequencing – examine hypotheses in country/sector case studies

  • Policy sequencing (Meckling et al. 2017, 2015; Pahle et al. 2017) hypothesizes that stringency of climate policy targets and policies is increased once barriers to higher ambition (such as interest group support/opposition) have been relaxed
  • Carefully formulate a framework for building and testing these hypotheses in case studies
  • Apply framework to empirical 1-2 decades history of a country/sector case (e.g. road transport Norway) to test validity of sequencing theory



Professor Lion Hirth

Prof. Lion Hirth is an economist by training and primarily works quantitatively. He can support you with your thesis in the field of the economics of renewable energy; energy policy – mostly in the European context; electricity system modeling; electricity markets; power grids; open science - including open data, open source software and re-use of scientific methods.

Proposed project titles/topics for 2023-2024 are found below. Please see this list with topic descriptions and further information. Please note that in 2023-2024, Professor Hirth will have reduced supervision capacity (6 slots).

  • Price elasticity of energy demand
  • Electricity demand response at different time scales
  • Capacity credits in highly renewable electricity systems
  • Granular distribution grid tariffs
  • Balancing energy prices
  • The impact of batteries on balancing
  • Demand response in power models
  • Peak shaving product
  • Estimating emissions intensity of power systems
  • Contracts for differences
  • The “downstream” side of CfDs
  • Power purchasing agreements
  • The value of the solar PV learning curve
  • Recent electricity market liberalization
  • Smart meter and retail pricing review
  • Dynamic retail tariffs
  • Hedged retail tariffs
  • Wholesale market participation of electricity demand
  • Economic value of subsidized loans for renewable energy
  • Network tariff design
  • Storage vs. transmission
  • Future dispatchable capacity mix
  • Balancing market in the Netherlands
  • Predicting network congestion
  • Redispatch and curtailment in Germany
  • Revenue cap

Additional topics and opportunities

Unveiling Household Energy Consumption during the European Energy Crises (Co-supervision: Silvana Tiedemann and Maximilian Amberg, MCC)

Understanding the factors that influence household energy consumption is an ongoing area of research (e.g., Khanna et al., 2022). In 2022, German households encountered various factors that impacted their energy consumption patterns, including the war in Ukraine, increasing prices, and targeted initiatives aimed at promoting energy-saving behaviors. However, the challenge remains in isolating the individual effects of these factors and assessing the efficacy of different measures, particularly considering the socioeconomic disparities among households.

This Master thesis offers a unique opportunity to conduct an empirical analysis in collaboration with the MCC as a practice partner. You will have access to comprehensive monthly consumption data from approximately 5000 non-representative households, along with information on the timing of interventions, pricing, and fundamental socioeconomic characteristics.

To excel in this endeavor, prerequisites include a solid understanding of causal methods, proficiency in R programming, and a keen interest in conducting an empirical study with highly relevant policy implications.



  • Christian Flachsland, Professor of Sustainability | Director, Centre for Sustainability

  • Lion Hirth, Assistant Professor of Governance of Digitalisation and Energy Policy

  • Nora Kertesz, Associate Curricular Affairs