Dr Jake Barnes


Research Groups

Dr Jake Barnes



Jake joined the Environmental Change Institute in March 2018. Prior to this he worked as a Research Associate at the University of Exeter and as a Research Fellow within the Sussex Energy Group at SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit – at the University of Sussex. He has a background in international relations, energy policy and grassroots activism.

In 2010 Jake played an active role in the formation Bristol Energy Network, a grassroots intermediary supporting community action on energy within Bristol and the surrounding area. In 2014 he helped formalise the network as a CIC and has, since this time, supported its growth as a director.

Current Research

Jake's research interests include the politics and sociology of innovation and change at community through city-regional scales to national systems. He has worked with local governments, community groups and social enterprises to reflect, learn and pursue societal transformations. His research is interdisciplinary and problem orientated. He often combines ideas and approaches from innovation studies with policy and governance studies to investigate how progress towards low carbon energy systems and sustainability transformations more broadly can be achieved.

Within this broad area his work can be split into two overarching themes:

  1. Participation, actors and agency for sustainability transitionsM
    A significant portion of Jake's work has focussed on the ways in which different actors get involved in and shape unfolding energy systems. Community participation has been a strong theme here, being the focus of his PhD research, the focus of his work in Bristol and more recently within the NEWCOMERS project. An increasingly prominent aspect of this concerns the application of business model logics.

    In the last couple of years, he has also been investigating how more diverse forms of public participation in energy systems – like protests, consultations, living labs, visioning exercises and so on as well as community energy projects – influence the direction and extent of change.
  2. Governance of system change
    The flip side of individual actions and closely linked to participation, Jake is fascinated with processes of collective decision-making for energy systems change. Be this at the national scale, at regional scales or at local scales. For instance, within the Integrate project he is currently exploring UK heat decarbonisation pathways through a policy mix lens. Meanwhile, he has been supporting the early stages of Project LEO – to think through how the project goes about reconfiguring Oxfordshire's energy system into something that is increasingly localised and smart.
Current and recent research projects

NEWCOMERS (New Clean Energy Communities in a changing European Energy System), H2020- funded, 2019-2022
This EU-funded project will work with communities at the forefront of developing new business models, to analyse the contexts from which they emerge and how they engage citizens, create value and share learning. It will also assess their potential to scale up.

Public participation for energy transitions, Oxford-Berlin seed funding award, 2019-2020
Efforts to understand, facilitate and culture diverse forms of energy participation have become a central concern for those interested in building increasingly low carbon and socially-just energy systems. But how diverse forms of energy participation might be influencing the direction (and extent) of change within energy systems is as yet unclear. Focusing down on energy participation within regions, this piece of explorative work with colleagues from the Technical University, Berlin is developing new theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of energy participation.

Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy, 2018-2021
The Programme aims to deliver a framework for understanding technical, market and policy requirements for integrating renewables across scales, resource types and contexts. Jake joined the programme in March 2018 to investigate innovation processes, actor strategies, political struggles and broader governance processes in the prospective transition towards lower carbon heat systems in the UK.

Energy Publics, funded by the Bristol Sustainable Energy Research Fund, 2018
This project mapped energy participation in the West of England, between 2015-2017 and explored the resultant patterns of participation using a whole systems approach.

Rethinking Energy Demand, ESRC-funded, 2017
A collaboration between researchers and Devon County Council, the project co-created new strategies for achieving employee energy demand reduction within local authority offices.

ARTS (Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to Sustainability), PF7-funded, 2014-2016
The ARTS project sought to understand how diverse 'transition initiatives' (local collective initiatives that seek transformative change) can accelerate progress towards more sustainable city-regions across Europe.


  • Barnes, J. (forthcoming) Public participation and energy system transformations. In, Routledge Handbook of Energy Democracy. Routledge.
  • Nolden, C., Barnes, J. and Nicholls, J. (forthcoming) A review of community energy business model evolution in the UK. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.