Sarah Darby became interested in the social nature of energy use when evaluating home energy advice programmes, which taught her some of the many possibilities for describing and analysing how people and technologies interact. She works with colleagues and ideas from a range of disciplines in search of understanding how energy systems work for different actors in different situations, and how they might develop in more environmentally and socially benign ways.  

Sarah holds a BSc in Ecological Science from Edinburgh University, a postgraduate Diploma in Planning from Oxford Polytechnic and a DPhil from Oxford University (Awareness, action and feedback in domestic energy use).


Sarah's recent research has mostly involved assessing the potential for demand-side response in electricity systems that rely increasingly on renewable supply and have to cope with changing patterns of demand. She contributes to a body of work that interprets energy systems as socio-technical, functioning through interactions between hardware, 'software' (regulations, billing systems, tariffs etc.), knowledge and know-how, and human activities. She maintains an interest in energy feedback and advice and the challenge of working towards energy sufficiency – meeting basic needs for energy services within planetary limits, in different contexts and at different scales.

Recent projects 

LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire). Major demonstration project to create a local energy marketplace and enable more active network management. Led on learning and dissemination. Funded by Innovate UK, April 2019–March 2023.

NEWCOMERS (New clean energy communities in a changing European energy system) explored new business models for energy communities, with the aim of drawing up practical recommendations for how EU, national and local governments can support them. PI for Oxford, led on case studies. Funded by the European Commission (Horizon 2020), June 2019–May 2022.


  • 2019 | Editorial Advisory Panel, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Energy
  • 2019 | Editorial board, Buildings and Cities
  • 2018 | Editorial board, Energy Research and Social Science

Sarah has reviewed papers, reports and proposals for journals and organisations including Energy Policy; Buildings & Cities; Energy Research & Social Science; Energy Efficiency; Energy; Climate Policy; Energy Economics; Environmental Science and Policy; Energy and Buildings; Environment and Planning (A and C); IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid; Indoor and Built Environment; Journal of Consumer Research; Journal of Environmental Psychology; The Energy Journal; Transactions of IEEE Power & Energy; Applied Energy; Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (UK); National Science Foundation (USA); American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; Belgian Science Policy Office; Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research; and Electric Power Research Institute (USA).

Recent publications


  • Zhou, Y., Essayah, C., Darby, S. and Morstyn, T. (2024) Evaluating the Social Benefits and Network Costs of Heat-Pumps as an Energy Crisis Intervention. iScience 108854
  • Barnes, J., Hansen, P., Kamin, T., Golob, U., Darby, S., van der Grijp, N. and Petrovics, D. (2024) Creating valuable outcomes: An exploration of value creation pathways in the business models of energy communities. Energy Research & Social Science 103398



  • Hansen, P., Barnes, J. and Darby, S. (2022) Final report on clean energy community business models: emergence, operation and prospects of European case studies. Deliverable 4.6 of the NEWCOMERS project (New clean energy communities in a changing European energy system)




See Google Scholar for a full overview of publications.