Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

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.

Between 2010-2020 Jake supported the formation and growth of Bristol Energy Network, a grassroots intermediary supporting community action on energy within Bristol and the surrounding area.

Research Interests

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, often combining different theoretical approaches to investigate how progress towards low carbon energy systems and sustainability transformations more broadly can be achieved.

A significant portion of Jake's work has focussed on the ways in which different actors get involved in and shape change within 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 salient aspect of this concerns the increasing professionalisation and commercialisation of community activity in the creation of innovative business models, often though alliances with diverse public and private actors.

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 community energy projects - influence the direction and extent of change. How local and national governments respond to increasingly active citizens and of the necessary changes to the way in which energy systems are governed to meet net zero objectives.

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. Further details can be found here.

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. and Hansen, P. (2022) Governing energy communities: the role of actors and expertise in business model innovation. In, Löbbe, S., Robinson, D. and Sioshansi, F. (eds.) Energy communities: Customer-centered, market-driven, welfare-enhancing?. .