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Back in January, Northern Gas Networks launched a report at the House of Commons highlighting what the economy might look like in the north if the UK heat network was de-carbonised.

The report (PDF document), commissioned by KPMG and titled Energising the North, demonstrates how the Northern energy economy is leading the de-carbonisation agenda in the UK through pioneering projects such as our H21 Leeds City Gate project, the Smart Grids Centre at Newcastle University, the Siemens wind turbine plant in Hull and the extensive electric car manufacturing by Nissan in Sunderland.

It also calls on the government to make low-carbon energy a centre-piece of its Industrial Strategy for the North. This is part of the report’s four-part plan, which calls for continued investment in the Northern energy economy as well as research and development and for the whole energy sector to work together and share innovative ideas to achieve full de-carbonisation by 2050.

The report details the huge contribution the energy sector in the North already makes to the regional and UK economy. From 1997 to 2014, the Northern energy sector accounted for almost a quarter (23 per cent to be precise) of the total UK economic value for the energy sector. In 2014, the Northern energy sector also contributed some £3.5billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the regional and UK economy.

The report also finds that the energy sector has the potential to increase growth across the North by up to £2.3billion a year by 2050. This growth would be built upon existing capabilities and exploit opportunities in smart power, de-carbonised gas and transport. By making the most of these opportunities, the Northern energy sector can create an additional 20,000 jobs.

Additionally, putting the benefits of de-carbonising the UK heat network a-side for a moment, there are huge benefits for the local economy as well. Currently, 10 of the 12 most declining UK cities are in the North of England. So creating these additional jobs could also create a lifeline for local people.

So, what next? There is a lot of work to be done, but initiatives such as our H21 Leeds City Gate project show that conversion to a hydrogen gas network is achievable and demonstrates the way in which the north is leading the rest of the country in de-carbonisation technology.

The new £30m InTEGReL research facility in Gateshead, that we have launched in partnership with Newcastle University, Northern Powergrid and supported by the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI), is also creating the opportunity to carry out trials and experiments of coupled gas, electricity and heat systems for the first time.

Now the government needs to work across the region and show the rest of the UK that transforming the energy sector is at the heart of their Industrial Strategy and to make low-carbon energy investment a centre piece of its strategy for the North.

David Gill
Head of Customer Energy Solutions