Future is bright for North East energy research
(20 September 2007)
Durham University Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Higgins today said the North East had an important role to play in developing new ways of meeting future energy needs despite missing out on the new Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).
The Government decided to award the administrative hub of the ETI to the Midlands ahead of the region and Scotland following a competitive bidding process. Despite being disappointed with the outcome Professor Higgins said the decision to shortlist the North East consortium’s bid to lead the UK’s billion pound clean energy development programme demonstrated the strength of expertise available in the region. He said: “We are disappointed that the Energy Technologies Institute won’t be coming to the region as we felt confident that the North East consortium provided the best environment for research and development for the ETI. “However the fact that the region was short-listed as one of three finalists for the institute highlights the strength of our expertise in the fields of renewable energy and environmental research. “Our skills and knowledge mean that Durham and its partners will still have an important role to play in ETI funded research and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the Midlands on devising new and innovative ways of meeting future energy needs.” Durham played a significant role in the North East consortium which also included Newcastle and Northumbria universities, the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI). The bid was supported by regional development agency One NorthEast (ONE). Durham has world-class experts in its Departments of Engineering, Physics, Earth Sciences, Geography and Biological and Biomedical Sciences, investigating renewable energy, storage of CO2, photovoltaic (solar) materials, the development of wind turbines, new plant strains for biomass use and the social impact of changing energy use. The energy sector is currently estimated to be worth around £900m, positioning the region as the energy capital of the UK. It is also one of the most productive sectors in the region, employing around 30,000 people. More than £6bn is currently being invested in novel energy projects in the region over the next few years. ONE has invested over £100m in recent years and public sector investment will continue; ONE has committed a further £100m of public funds to energy research and development over the next five years. ONE Chairman Margaret Fay said: “We are determined to maintain the energy that the bidding process itself has generated and build on the tremendous opportunities that are in the pipeline for the renewables sector in the North East, which promise significant new jobs and investment.”