PhD: The local embedding of technologies through community-led initiatives: the case of sustainable energy (Jake Barnes)

 Jake Barnes

Doctoral Student
Sussex Energy Group,
SPRU, University of Sussex

In the UK, community-led energy initiatives have received increasing attention in recent years for being holistic, multifaceted and participatory but above all grounded in how people live their lives. Approaching this activity from a socio-technical perspective the research explores the processes through which communities seek to integrate sustainable technologies into local contexts of use. The research thus focuses on how these groups ‘pick up’ and ‘play around with’ technologies and attempt to integrate them socially, economically and institutionally within their neighbourhoods and city’s. The primary research question is: how are community-led initiatives seeking to locally embed Sustainable technologies?

Using build blocks from the social embedding of technology by wider society and the appropriation of technology by users, the research highlights and fills an existing gap in the literature: how technologies get embedded in geographical-bounded systems. In doing so it mobilises key intermediary processes of facilitating, configuring and brokering to develop a process theory on the agency of community initiatives to local embed technologies.

The research design includes four in-depth case studies in one a city-region. The cases are chosen for their diversity and are based around two politically desirable, socially acceptable and economically feasible low carbon technologies, Solar PV and solid-wall insulation. Narrative explanation is then employed to analyse intermediary processes in local embedding and further develop theory.

The research contributes to the grassroots innovation agenda by identifying and critically exploring the agency of community energy initiatives to construct local st systems of provision.

PhD (2011-2015) supervised by Prof Adrian Smith and Dr Florian Kern

Jake Barnes

Jake is an academic and activist. Growing up in the South West of England Jake began undergraduate studies in Bristol studying International Relations but has since moved through an MSc on Energy Policy and Sustainability to focus down on local and community-scale action for sustainability. His research interests include the politics and sociology of innovation and change at local and community scales.

He is a member of the Sussex Energy Group and a founding director of the Bristol Energy Network, an umbrella organisation for community energy initiatives in Bristol and the surrounding area. In 2013, he coordinated the development of the Bristol Community Strategy for Energy: a grassroots, cross-sectoral energy strategy for the city, endorsed and launched by the city’s Mayor, the strategy seeks to place individuals and communities at the heart of Bristol’s future energy system.