Home / North East energy sector

Using data to power the drive against climate change

MyGridGB is a new product being developed in the North East, which provides a breakdown of the different methods of energy production supplying the UK. Brian Matthews, Business Development Lead, explains how the team has accessed new networks through the North East Energy Catalyst’s Energy Innovation Challenge, and how he hopes MyGridGB will empower future generations to help tackle climate change.

Can you tell us a bit about MyGridGB?

MyGridGB provides a simple, visual way of showing where the UK’s energy is coming from – so, what proportion is currently being provided through wind, solar, gas or nuclear power, for example.

It’s an information system and also an educational tool, as people can create their own models for the UK energy grid and see the impact that has on our C02 emissions.

It’s like energy sector Lego: you put the building blocks together and see what the outcome is. Can your model produce enough energy to power the UK? How much will the energy cost? What will it mean for people’s power bills and for C02 emissions?

What energy challenge does your product help to solve?

One of the biggest challenges we have is that people don’t understand where their energy comes from. MyGridGB helps people to be more informed and to make more educated choices about energy – choices that aren’t just driven by cost.

It gets people thinking about how we can decarbonise energy in the UK and it starts conversations as people see the impact of steps that we can all take to help achieve our C02 targets. It’s about engaging young people at the right age and giving them knowledge that enables them to make decisions that will impact climate change.

People knowing where their energy comes from can only be a good thing and I hope this knowledge will also inspire more young people to become involved in the energy sector in the future.

Why did you get involved with the North East Energy Catalyst’s Energy Innovation Challenge?

One of the benefits of entering the Energy Innovation Challenge is that it acts as an independent feasibility test of your product. That external viewpoint is really important, as you don’t always get that when you’re so close to a product that you’ve been developing.

Being involved with the challenge also gives you visibility of what’s available in terms of finance and funding, which can be quite difficult to do on your own, as well as access to business and leadership development programmes.

And it’s a way to quickly and easily develop your network within the energy sector, which has a Silicon Valley-style incubator effect as more people work together.

What’s next for MyGridGB?

Our aim is to look at how we can make MyGridBG into an app that can be used in schools, colleges and universities to help engage young people with climate change.

It has the potential to help educate people from a young age, through to providing more complex data for university studies.

We’re now looking to make links with North East app developers as we’re based in the North East and we want to develop links with others in the region, spend our money here and help to generate a circular economy.

MyGridGB has been developed by Andrew Crossland and is supported by the Durham Energy Institute.

The Energy Innovation Challenge (round 3) is open for entries until Friday 26 February and SMEs are invited to put forward applications based on the use of materials in any aspect of electricity, gas and water infrastructure, such as pipes, valves or cables.

Find out more here.

Home / North East energy sector

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]


Home / North East energy sector

World’s first multi-site £9m Integrated Smart Energy Lab launched by North East Energy Catalyst

A unique multi-site £9m smart energy testbed, the Integrated Smart Energy Lab (ISE Lab), has been launched in the region by the North East Energy Catalyst partnership, uniting the region’s smart energy capabilities to become the world’s first multi-site energy laboratory.

The Integrated Smart Energy Lab (ISE Lab) is a combination of complementary research and testing capabilities in the North East – home to where the national grid was first pioneered. It will enable new smart energy research, demonstration and industry engagement, and includes digital and physical assets across multiple locations in the region, interconnected using high performance virtual platforms.

ISE Lab will combine Newcastle University’s Smart Grid Laboratory and Urban Science Building Energy Storage Test Bed, the Durham University Smart Grid Laboratory for demand-centric testing, decentralised testing and digitalised and data-centric testing, and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s 3MW and 15MW powertrain test, demonstration and research assets, including its 18MVA Grid Emulation system (eGrid).

Targeting all grid levels and supply-demand scenarios across the whole energy system, from national transmission grid level, to local consumer, building, and micro-grid level, the ISE Lab will also combine modelling with live ‘real-world’ asset and network data from sources such as EV charging, battery storage, hydrogen electrolysis, and energy generation.

The ISE Lab will offer new unique capabilities for those seeking to innovate, de-risk and commercialise smart energy solutions, such as energy companies, SMEs, academia and the regional supply chain.

Integrated smart energy systems and services are essential in decarbonising the energy system and optimising the use of low carbon energy sources, highlighted by recent dramatic changes in supply and demand patterns during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, ISE Lab will boost the North East’s green economic growth plans, as well as helping showcase solutions to global energy challenges, and contributing to the UK’s Net Zero carbon emission targets.

Andrew Clark, Energy Lead at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership which facilitates the North East Energy Catalyst, said: “The national grid was first pioneered in the North East so it is fitting that we are now the region bringing forward a new and unique lab facility that will help us better explore and exploit the benefits of integrated energy systems. This speaks to the strength of collaboration within our region.”

Tony Quinn, Test Facilities Director at ORE Catapult, said: “ISE Lab will bring together a combination of the best intellectual and physical assets that the region has to offer. It gives us a great opportunity to address and make a significant contribution to the technological changes required to achieve Net Zero.”

Dr Sara Walker, Director of the Centre for Energy, Newcastle University, said: “We are investigating the potential for our energy systems to be more integrated, for new technologies, for decentralisation of systems, and for greater digitalisation. Test beds are a valuable tool in that research. The ISE lab brings key strengths in our region together, and we are delighted to be a partner in this exciting initiative.”

Dr Hongjian Sun, Reader in Smart Grid at the Department of Engineering at Durham University, said: “Integrating energy systems has great potential to decarbonise all energy sectors including transport and heat; but it also brings new challenges such as multi-system modeling and coordination, real-time data collection and learning, and demand response. We are very glad to offer expertise and testing facilities through ISE lab initiative, and work with both industries and research organisations to tackle these challenges together.”

A portfolio of projects with industry, academic and public sector partners is now under development for the ISE Lab, facilitated by the North East Energy Catalyst partnership. For enquiries about utilising the ISE Lab please contact [email protected].

Home / North East energy sector

Energy for Growth: a new strategy for the North East

The North East LEP’s new Energy for Growth strategy aims to drive economic growth in the North East while also bringing sector partners together to deliver at scale on national energy strategy.

Andrew Clark, North East LEP Energy Programme Lead, explains more.

We’ve been actively consulting with cross-sector partners across the North East with an interest in the energy agenda to develop the Energy for Growth strategy, and bring stakeholders together to capitalise on the North East’s significant strengths and opportunities in this area.

Our vision for the Energy for Growth strategy is to drive growth in the North East while delivering on national energy objectives at scale. The strategy helps us shape regional delivery, taking forward a key strand of the North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP). The SEP identifies energy as an area of strategic importance for the North East, with potential to bring investment and jobs to our region. Through the Energy for Growth strategy we will build on our commitment to drive forward this opportunity.

Within the strategy, we’ve identified 13 themes where the North East can both contribute to national policy and drive growth within the region, ranging from low-emission transport to offshore energy, heat networks, and geothermal energy from old mine workings.

We’ve also outlined three distinct workstreams through which we will build and support a pipeline of forthcoming projects around these themes, to help us to achieve the aims of the strategy.

One of these workstreams is offshore energy and subsea technology, focusing on supporting the North East’s world-leading strengths and supply chain operating in this arena. A second workstream is around regional energy projects, where delivery of energy projects at scale, for example around heat, power or transport, in the North East can help solve national challenges.

The third workstream is energy demonstration and innovation. This is where the first two meet, with a nationally significant asset base in the North East in innovating, demonstrating and delivering new solutions across all forms of energy technologies, systems, policy and research.

As the UK builds on its clean growth commitments, the North East is in an important position to be the partner of choice for industry and government when it comes to testing, developing and delivering new energy technologies and solutions. Potential growth of the UK low carbon economy is estimated at 11% per year between 2015 and 2030 – four times faster than the rest of the economy – and this is an area where we can make a real difference with our comprehensive regional capabilities.

The energy sector is one which has huge potential to bring more and better jobs to the North East, alongside a host of wider social and environmental benefits. If you’re involved in an energy project that you think could impact national policy and bring investment to our region, I’d love to hear from you.

Andrew Clark, North East LEP Energy Programme Lead.

Read an executive summary of the Energy for Growth strategy here and read the full strategy here.