£30m smart grid R&D facility launches in the UK


UK utilities Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid in partnership with Newcastle University launched a facility for research and development of innovative technologies to improve the transport and energy systems.

According to a statement, the energy companies partnered with the EEPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) at Newcastle University to establish the Integrated Transport Electricity Gas Research Laboratory (InTEGReL) in Gateshead.

The £30 million ($39.6 million) facility will act as a testbed for businesses and solution developers to test new technologies including battery storage and smart home systems to reduce the carbon footprint of the transport and energy sectors.

The launch of the laboratory falls under efforts by the private and academic sectors to jointly address challenges being faced by the region to meet goals to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

InTEGReL “… 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,” says a combined statement.

The launch of the research, development and testing facility follows the Energy Networks Association forecasting investments from the private sector towards UK energy networks reaching £80 billion ($105 billion) by 2020.

According to ENA, “If a whole systems approach saved just 5% of that cost, savings of around £4 billion ($5.2 billion) could be passed to the customer through energy bills.”

Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, commented: “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.” [Nissan and UK utility to research electric vehicles to support grid].

Professor Phil Taylor, Head of Engineering for Newcastle University and Head of the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, added: “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 testbed 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.”


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