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Northern Gas Networks and the EPSRC National Centre for Energy System Integration have announced the launch of IntEGReL, a groundbreaking integrated electrical and gas utility scale research facility.

The £30m InteGReL facility (Integrated Electricity and Gas Research Laboratory), located in Gateshead, is a partnership between Northern Gas Networks (NGN) and the Newcastle University-led EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI). It will allow energy researchers and industry to carry out grid scale trials and experiments of coupled gas, electricity and heat systems for the first time.

The underpinning philosophy of InteGReL is that a ‘whole systems’ approach to energy is required to deliver what customers want.

Professor Phil Taylor, Director of the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration at Newcastle University, said: “In response to the growing consensus that a ‘whole systems approach’ is necessary to transform the UK energy system and drive forward the government’s industrial strategy, NGN and CESI have launched a research, development and demonstration facility which reflects this need and is set to be at the forefront of energy innovation for years to come.”

The announcement was made during the launch of the Energising the North report, which described the strengths, challenges and opportunities for the North of England and UK energy systems.

The energy trilemma

Energy systems face many serious and sometimes conflicting challenges, often referred to as the energy trilemma: security, affordability and sustainability. Decarbonising these networks at a reasonable cost – while maintaining the security of supply – will have significant benefits both for industry and society. However, realising these potential benefits requires social, technical, commercial and regulatory innovation.

Professor Phil Taylor explained: “The underpinning philosophy of InteGReL is that a ‘whole systems approach’ to energy is required to deliver what customers want. In order to do this, we need to fully understand our complex energy system and the interdependencies between heating, cooling, transport, gas and electricity.

“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 trialed 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 CESI. Through integrating the learning from our smart grid laboratory, energy storage test bed on Science Central and now IntGReL, 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.”