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£30m energy research and development facility opens in Gateshead

Newcastle University, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) and Northern Powergrid have launched InTEGReL - Integrated Transport Electricity Gas Research Laboratory

InTEGReL is the UK’s first fully integrated energy systems research, development and demonstration site as part of its work to develop a fully integrated, zero carbon energy network moving from cleaner to clean, greener to green.

The site in Gateshead is a partnership with the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) at Newcastle University. It is an incubator for cutting edge whole energy systems technology, allowing forward-thinking businesses to test their ideas in real-world conditions, and at a large scale.

InTEGReL will tackle the UK’s energy challenges head on, with teams of academics and engineers working to deliver breakthroughs in the decarbonisation of heat, energy storage and transport. It is an investment in the consumer, as the principal aim will be working to identify the most affordable and practical solution to moving customers onto low carbon, low cost energy.

The Energy Networks Association estimates that £80 billion of private investment will be made in the UK’s energy networks by the year 2020. If a whole systems approach saved just 5% of that cost, savings of around £4 billion could be passed to the customer through energy bills.

The site will feature cutting edge smart grid technology, the latest research into battery storage and be at the forefront of hydrogen expertise, building on NGN’s industry leading H21 City Gate project, which proved that the existing gas network has the capacity to be converted to zero carbon hydrogen.

When completed, the site will host a high tech battery storage and research lab, domestic appliances and smart system demonstration homes as well as hydrogen and CNG refuelling stations for vehicles. 

Building confidence in new methods and technologies

Professor Phil Taylor, Head of Engineering for Newcastle University and Head of the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, said:

“Computer models can only take us so far in understanding energy systems and developing and evaluating new techniques and technologies, so there is a critical need for full-scale integrated energy system research and demonstration facilities where new ideas can be trialled and evaluated.

“These facilities are key in building confidence in new methods and technologies, in terms of both performance and safety, and this is what underpins our research at Newcastle University. Through integrating the learning from our smart grid laboratory, energy storage test bed on Science Central and now InTEGReL, the aim is to test the whole energy system and really understand how we need to evolve and adapt to meet future supply and demand.”

Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “I welcome today’s launch of InTEGReL, the UK’s first integrated energy systems R&D facility. As part of our Industrial Strategy this Government is working closely with partners in the energy sector to position the UK at the forefront of global efforts to develop carbon-free energy solutions.

“The InTEGReL project demonstrates how the private sector – working with the UK’s world class Higher Education sector – can take a leading role in helping Britain reach our 2050 emission reduction target. This Government is committed to supporting low carbon energy solutions in the UK, and our recent £246 million investment in battery technology and £25 million in the development of hydrogen gas technology have been central to this.”

Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, said: “I am delighted that Northern Gas Networks, Newcastle University and Northern Powergrid have chosen the North East to launch the InTEGReL facility. This is huge vote of confidence in the region which quite literally powered the first industrial revolution and is now at the heart of the UK’s energy future.

“The Labour Party is committed to a carbon free energy future, led by world class UK energy research and development. If we are to meet our emission reduction target as a nation it is essential that the UK’s industrial strategy supports ambitious projects such as InTEGReL.”

Mark Horsley, CEO of Northern Gas Networks, said:

We are delighted to open InTEGReL which we see as another step forward in our work towards a zero carbon energy future. The site will bring together the best and brightest in this field and encourage the big thinking that is required if we are to secure, affordable, low carbon energy future.

“At Northern Gas Networks we have been working on our energy future project for a number of years, and this is a big breakthrough. Fully integrated energy systems that combine electricity, gas, and renewables to power heating, lighting and transport, can help to reduce the use of primary energy, cut costs and increase the reliability of our energy networks. It really is an issue of national importance and one which we take very seriously.”

Patrick Erwin, Policy and Markets Director, Northern Powergrid said:
“Working in partnership, we’ll be able to test for the first time how electricity and gas can work together and explore new ways to provide a whole energy system that could deliver sustainable, low carbon energy solutions for customers in a more affordable manner.

“Initially we’ll focus on balancing intermittent low carbon energy, such as solar, against demand, including heat, by using electrical and gas storage and transfers of energy between the two systems. Further project phases might explore novel storage and conversion technologies or the interaction with transport. Learning from this exciting project could help form the building blocks of future systems to seamlessly manage gas and electricity flows that could benefit the UK and beyond for generations to come.”

published on: 11 September 2017