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North East leading on UK plan for a Green Industrial Revolution 

Globally significant work being carried out within the North East’s energy sector is leading the way on delivering the government’s Green Industrial Revolution plan which was announced in November, reinforcing the region’s position to lead delivery on the UK’s Net Zero agenda. 

The plan announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson includes 10 key areas of focus, which correspond with initiatives already being delivered in the North East and bring opportunities to create more and better jobs in the region. 

Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said: “The North East energy sector is already working together to deliver on national energy strategy while driving economic growth, and North East partners are collaborating nationally and internationally and investing £200 million over the next 10 years to deliver on energy opportunities.

“The announcement of the Green Industrial Revolution plan by the government further solidifies our ambitions and underlines our position as a leader in energy and clean growth, with pioneering work already underway across the plan.”  

The first of the 10 points in the government’s plan is offshore wind, a sector in which the North East is recognised as a global centre for the development of next-generation components, central to supporting the growth of the UK offshore wind sector. 

The North East’s offshore wind cluster is home to businesses that serve global markets and the cluster is growing, with the recent announcement that Equinor and SSE Renewables – two of the companies behind the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank – plan to create a new base at the Port of Tyne. The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, the UK’s leading research centre for renewable offshore energy, also has a base in the region, at Blyth in Northumberland, which plays an international role in test and validation of next generation turbine components. 

James Ritchie, chair of Energi Coast, the North East’s offshore wind cluster, said: “We know that there is the potential for the North East to support 9,000 jobs in the offshore wind sector by 2025, and we have the ambition and expertise to further grow our reputation as a world-leading cluster and international centre for innovation in offshore energy, working with regional partners and industry through Energi Coast to deliver on UK content and export goals.”  

The government’s plan also includes the aims to drive growth of low carbon hydrogen, and to develop a town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade. National research and demonstration of hydrogen as a zero-carbon fuel is taking place in the North East, with residents of Winlaton in Gateshead set to become the first users of a public UK gas network to receive blended hydrogen for heating and cooking through the HyDeploy project.

Keith Owen, Head of Systems Development and Energy Strategy at Northern Gas Networks said: “The North is ideally positioned to be at the forefront of emerging hydrogen and low carbon technologies and the North East Energy Catalyst will play a leading role in making this a reality. Through the HyDeploy project, based at our InTEGReL facility at Low Thornley, the community of Winlaton, Gateshead, will soon receive the first hydrogen blended gas delivered in a public network. In addition, at the InTEGReL site we’re building the UK’s first hydrogen house, which will be used to demonstrate hydrogen fed appliances and our innovative customer energy village will showcase the very latest hydrogen and other low carbon technologies, to demonstrate that a rapid hydrogen transition is possible.”      

The transition to electric vehicles – a field where the North East has capabilities unique across Europe, including multiple battery manufacturing facilities and a supply chain at the cutting edge of next-generation vehicle and battery technology – also features in the government’s plan.

The North East is also home to the national Driving the Electric Revolution Centre, headed up by Newcastle University, which will help propel UK manufacturing to the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change by enabling faster collaborative research and development of electric machines, including cars, planes and ships.

Paul Butler, Chief Executive of the North East Automotive Alliance, said: “Electrification is a huge opportunity to address decarbonisation and the climate emergency, and no other region in the UK can lay claim to the kind of capabilities we have in the North East when it comes to electric vehicle technologies.” 

Making homes and public buildings greener, more efficient, and moving away from fossil fuels, is another government priority and an area where the North East is driving forward economic opportunities associated with the development of low-carbon heating. 

Andrew Clark, Energy Lead at the North East LEP, said: “We’re working with the government and other partners, through the Department for International Trade’s High Potential Opportunity Programme, to develop the North East as the UK’s first low-carbon heat supply chain cluster. We are home to pioneering delivery of low carbon heat technologies, including some of the UK’s most significant large scale mine heat projects, leading a national task-force on mine energy deployment, and a nationally-important trial of heat pump technology putting the region at the cutting-edge of testing the practical large-scale roll-out of heat pumps to homes.” 

The partnership between energy supplier E.ON and Newcastle City Council, funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has seen a large-scale demonstration and test of heat pumps, which extract energy from the air or ground to heat homes and businesses. 

Underpinning the government’s strategy is innovation and finance, and at the heart of energy innovation is the North East Energy Catalyst, a ground-breaking cross-sector partnership which unites the region’s unique base of innovation, demonstration and delivery capabilities. Partners include public sector bodies, national agencies, private sector businesses and academia.

The Catalyst recently announced the launch of a new, multi-site £9m smart energy testbed, the Integrated Smart Energy Lab (ISE Lab) which will bring together the region’s smart energy capabilities to become the world’s first multi-site energy laboratory.

Tony Quinn, Test Facilities Director at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, said “The ISE Lab is a prime example of how the North East’s comprehensive energy innovation assets can be brought together to showcase solutions to global challenges. It will offer unique capabilities for commercialising smart energy solutions and it’s a project which speaks to the strength of collaboration within our region, combining assets from Newcastle University, Durham University and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in Northumberland.

“With networks like the North East Energy Catapult, we are poised to bring forward an ambitious contribution to the UK’s Net Zero innovation portfolio.” 

Lucy Winskell, Chair of the North East LEP added: “We’re a region which is working collaboratively, not just within the North East, but with partners nationally and internationally, and we’re ready to use our strengths to help government and industry deliver the new plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.” 

The North East Energy for Growth strategy, which is led by the North East LEP, includes opportunities to build a pipeline of projects which align with national energy strategy. To find out more or to get involved, contact the North East LEP Energy Programme Lead, Andrew Clark, on [email protected]