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.


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.

Jake's work can be split into two broad areas of interest:

1. Actors and their agency to pursue societal change

A significant portion of Jake's work has focused 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.

2. Governing socio-technical change

The flip side or natural extension of participation concerns how societies make decisions, develop and enact effective and just policy to pursue societal transformations. Here questions of power and agency come to the fore, alongside the institutional structures and contexts in which policy making and governance play out. Whilst originally focussed on community and city-regional governance, his work increasingly explores interactions between the national and local as well as the challenges and trade-offs required in developing inclusive, equitable and responsive modes of governing.


IMPERFECT (Implementing effective policy for a just transition to net zero)

British Academy-funded, 2023 to 2024

This project explores the translation of national net zero policy into local policy, engagement, and action. It seeks to support integrated, multi-level net zero governance in the UK by developing a novel approach to classifying national net zero policies and their relevance locally before evaluating and synthesising existing social science and humanities research on policy implementation.

Building resilience to climate change through citizen-led energy transitions

2023 to 2024

This Wohl Clean Growth Alliance-funded project explores citizen and community involvement in net zero transitions might be fostered by bringing together a new group of researchers, practitioners and policy-makers engaged in resilient community building in the UK and Israel. The project will run from May 2023 to March 2024. The project is led by Jozsef Kadar from the Arava Institute and Dr Jake Barnes from the University of Oxford.

Pump Priming

EPSRC 2023

This project examines the development of a UK market for domestic heat pumps. It asks: what, if any, implications for policy and practice arise from recent crises in geopolitics, politics, energy markets and society? The project will perform a rapid assessment of change across policy and markets, business models and technologies, and wider society before drawing out implications of findings through a series of stakeholder roundtables.


ESRC and EPSRC-funded

Jake joined the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) in June 2022 to synthesise and advance understanding and practice of net-zero governance in the UK; what it entails, why it is important and how it might be achieved.


H2020-funded, 2019 to 2022

New Clean Energy Communities in a changing European Energy System (NEWCOMERS) is an 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 to 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 to 2021

The Integrate 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

Bristol Sustainable Energy Research Fund, 2018

The Energy Publics 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.


PF7-funded, 2014-2016

The Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to Sustainability (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.

See a full list of Jake's publications on Researchgate or Google Scholar


Barnes, J. (2023) Heat pumps – five Government actions to accelerate deployment. CREDS.
Hansen, P. and Barnes, J. (2021) “Distributed energy resources and energy communities: exploring a systems engineering view of an emerging phenomenon”, NEWCOMERS working paper. NEWCOMERS project .