Dr David Barns

Dr David Barns


I am an interdisciplinary social scientist and policy specialist in heat decarbonisation. My current role is Research Fellow in Geosolutions: Social Science, Governance & Business Models for Local and Regional Geothermal Energy Use, within Geosolutions Leeds and the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) in the School of Earth and Environment. 

I am committed to tackling the climate emergency through positive and action-oriented research and application. I have over 10 years of experience working on the UK’s heat transition, combining academic study with professional delivery, primarily within local authority settings. 

From 2017-2022, I completed my PhD on socio-technical aspects of UK heat decarbonisation, exploring issues such as national and local policy, business models, and organisational decision-making, and how these affect local implementation of thermal energy storage in low carbon heat systems.

Research interests

I am particularly interested in place-based aspects of the energy transition, supporting city local authorites and other local actors to deliver positive change commensurate with the scale of the climate challenge. 

In my research fellowship within Geosolutions Leeds, I am applying this focus to the role of the subsurface in decarbonisartion and the energy transition. I am taking a local and regional approach to understand how the interplay of national and local policy, institutional and governance arrangements, city energy planning and competing demands will impact on use of the subsurface.

Current research projects

I am currently Principal Investigator for two projects supported by the Research England Policy Support Fund, October 2023 – July 2024

  • A clean energy supply for Leeds PIPES: laying the pipeline to zero-carbon heat networks
    • Working with Leeds City Cuncil and other local stakeholders to explore technical, economic and social considerations for integrating geothermal and other low carbon energy sources into the exisitng Leeds PIPES heat network to support expansion and establish a zero carbon trajectory.
    • Outputs will include policy recommnendations and a framework for securing long-term sustainability of existing heat networks through integration of low carbon heat sources.
  • Supporting UK-wide geothermal heat network deployment through a multi-layered, place-based analysis
    • Bringing together interdisciplinary expertise on the geoscience of the subsurface together with social sciences of environmental policy and governance to explore how Heat Network Zoning can be aligned with local energy opportunities to create the conditions for new low carbon heat networks to come forwards.
    • Generating national as well as local policy recommendations to support the development of new low carbon heat networks which exploit abundant natural and waste energy sources, including geothermal.

Outside of my professional activites I am also co-founder of the climate and social justice organisation Our Future Leeds, through which I co-developed the grant proposal for Climate Action Leeds, a £2.5m project for socially-just climate action in Leeds, funded by the National Lottery Climate Action Fund. I continue to support delivery of the project through my role as a volunteer director for Leeds Love It Share It.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD "Unlocking the potential for thermal energy storage in the UK", University of Leeds, 2017-22
  • MSc Renewable Energy Development, Heriot-Watt University
  • BSc Management & International Relations, Lancaster University

Student education

  • Guest lecturer MSc programmes
  • Supervisor for SOEE5020M Research Project 

Research groups and institutes

  • Sustainability Research Institute
  • Geosolutions Leeds