Dr Jake Barnes
Research Associate


Research interests

I am an engaged, interdisciplinary academic. My research interests focus on how progress towards low carbon energy systems and sustainability transitions more broadly can be achieved. Within this broad topic area my work focusses on community through to regional scale change processes. My work can be split into two areas:

1. Actors and agency for sustainability transitions

I am particularly interested in the agency of diverse actors (such as individuals, communities, public and private actors) to drive change towards more sustainable systems. What agency do they have? What strategies are pursued and how do multiple actors collaborate to achieve wider impact? My PhD research for example investigated how community-based intermediaries seek to locally embed low carbon technologies into local contexts of use and the context dynamics affecting how their projects developed.

2. The governance of city and regional transitions to sustainability

Second, I am interested in understanding the broader dynamics of innovation and change towards more sustainable futures within cities. This includes questions about the ability of cities and regions to shape their own futures, multilevel and multi-actor governance as well as seeking an understanding about broader transition dynamics within cities.

  • Ehnert, F. Frantzeskaki, N. Barnes, J. Borgström, S. Gorissen, L. Kern, F. Strenchock, L and Egermann, M (2018) The acceleration of urban sustainability transitions: a comparison of Brighton, Budapest, Dresden, Genk and Stockholm, Sustainability10(3), 612; doi:10.3390/su10030612 
  • Barnes, J. Durrant, R. Kern, F. MacKerro, G (under review) The institutionalisation of Sustainable practices in cities through local transition initiatives, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
  • Durrant, R. Barnes, J. Kern, F. Mackerron, G (under review) Mechanisms for acceleration: agency at the urban scale in transitions to global environmental sustainability

Research projects

Energy publics (Funded by the Bristol Sustainable Energy Research Fund, 2018)

It is increasingly recognised that the process of transforming energy systems will require the increased engagement and involvement of 'the public'. Public participation has traditionally been viewed as occurring through discrete events (e.g. consultations), on singular topics (e.g. the siting of renewable technologies) with an assumed external public. Contemporary energy participation, meanwhile, takes increasingly diverse and evolving forms. Participation through opinion polls, protests, maker spaces and smart technology trials and so on all contribute to making energy publics hard to pin down. As a result, it is not yet well understood how and where energy participation is occurring. This project aims to help fill this gap by (1) systematically mapping contemporary forms of energy participation within the West of England area, between 2015-2017, (2) analysing the resulting database using a 'whole systems' approach and (3) exploring the implications of this for future energy engagement work and for the creation of more democractically accountable local governance processes. 

Rethinking energy Demand (ESRC funded, 2017)

Re-thinking Energy Demand is a collaborative project between researchers at the University of Exeter and Devon County Council. The research aims to co-produce a set of resources for Local Authorities that a) provide new insights into the social, technical and cultural factors shaping internal energy demand problems, and b) influence the policies and strategies used by local authorities to reduce energy consumption. Within the project, I will be leading on a survey of southwest local authorities, focus groups with Devon County Council employees and development of co-created strategies for energy demand reduction. More information can be found on the project website: http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/rethinkingenergydemand/

Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to sustainability (ARTS) (EU FP7 funded, 2013-2016)

This project was designed to investigate the role and impact of local transition initiatives in European cities and to examine the governance conditions that can aid progress towards sustainable low-carbon societies. It contributed to improved decision making in policy and practice and regional and EU levels. More information on the project can be found on the project website: http://acceleratingtransitions.eu

I joined the project half way through to analyse the Brighton and Hove case study material and synthesize into journal articles, to organize local stakeholder engagement workshops and contribute to comparative analysis across city-regions. This involved chairing a series of five stakeholder workshops to explore shifting local and national context conditions and to co-create strategies to accelerate progress towards sustainability in the city. The process resulted in a collaboratively produced Roadmap for a Sustainable City, Brighton and Hove.

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