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World’s first Summit of national laboratories held on integrated energy systems

Eight national laboratories from across the energy space, encompassing nuclear, renewables and other low-carbon technologies, meet to progress COP26 aims

Keynote speeches from UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and UK Energy Minister the Rt Hon Greg Hands MP

Summit hosted by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) in the year of the UK’s presidency of COP26, bringing international partners together towards climate mitigation efforts

The full concluding document for the Summit can be found at nnl.co.uk/energysummit along with links to the concluding document, more information on integrated energy systems and a full recording of the Summit.

The world’s first ever Summit has been held between national laboratories working on energy research to progress a global integrated energy system approach to mitigating climate change.

The aim of the event was to build a long-term legacy for COP26, the latest United Nations Climate Change Conference, in the year of the UK’s presidency. It signifies the importance of integrated energy systems towards deep decarbonisation worldwide, and the particular role that national laboratories play to drive key science, innovation and research and development (R&D) towards a future net-zero energy economy.

Hosted by the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the Summit saw senior delegates from eight national laboratories across Canada, France, Japan, the UK and USA express their intention to collaborate around an international approach, in progressing a holistic understanding of what the future integrated energy system will look like in order to evolve technologies to be fit and ready to deliver.

The Summit concluded with a statement of intent for joint working over the coming years, which could include sharing each national laboratory’s vision of such systems, and best practice in research and innovation in areas such as:

  • Enabling and preparing for flexibility in the way energy can be used
  • Identifying energy needs across industry sectors, and optimising existing and new infrastructure to deliver energy in the most efficient ways
  • Demonstrating the maturity of the specific technological building blocks required for proof of concept of demonstrators or for the ‘First of a Kind’ of future integrated energy systems

Encompassing nuclear, renewables and other low-carbon energy vectors, the Summit reflects a turning point in the global energy debate – recognising the importance of collaboration not just internationally but across the entire energy community as part of the urgent transition to low-carbon sources.

Speaking at the Summit, Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said:

“The climate challenge that we all face is a huge one for societies across the world to come to terms with and to think about what response we need to make – urgently – in order to get on top of it. In November 2021, COP26 laid out very clearly what the challenges are in terms of the changing climate and, importantly, the role of innovation in how we solve this.

“It is very clear that this isn’t something that is a domestic issue – it’s an international issue and therefore requires international collaboration. Nations are going to have to harness all the resources they have and, particularly in respect of this Summit, to think about the role of national laboratories, which have been absolutely crucial to support translation, adoption and deployment of technologies that will make a difference.

“So with this meeting, it’s important that it is international in scope, it’s important that it is national laboratories coming together with all the resources and insights they can bring and it’s important that it reflects the urgency of the work ahead.”

UK Energy Minister the Rt Hon Greg Hands MP also said:

“I visited NNL in November, a few weeks after I became Energy Minister, and I was hugely impressed by the passion and the innovation that I saw. I am therefore very excited about this Summit and the opportunity to bring together national laboratories and representatives from the wider energy sector with the aim of accelerating crucial science and innovation towards a net-zero future.

“This kind of long-term, global collaboration – not just between countries, but between nuclear and renewables, and other low-carbon sources – will contribute to making the energy system fit for the future.”

In welcoming the event, NNL’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Paul Howarth further explained why collaboration – both globally and between different energy vectors – was critical to successful decarbonisation:

“With the transition to net zero driving fundamental changes globally to energy supply, demand, transmission, distribution, storage and use, research and innovation is required to help us develop, design and operate the right systems for a net-zero future. But given the complexity of the challenge, there is no straight forward swap – we need to work together to maximise the efficiency and suitability of these systems and ensure they are affordable for current and future generations.

“As national laboratories we have a unique role to play in enabling the successful energy transition, by providing global leadership and scientific expertise, bridging the gap between academia and industry and driving the innovation required for future technologies to deliver. I want to thank our counterparts for all their work and commitment towards this very first Summit, which I know will be an important global initiative and support the urgent challenges ahead in securing our world’s future clean energy economy.”

Guy Newey, strategy and performance director at Energy Systems Catapult, said:

“If we’re to unleash the innovation we need to get to a net zero global economy, it’s essential we take an integrated approach that understands the roles of different technologies, of markets, of digital technology and, crucially, of people.

“That’s why we’re delighted to support this initiative. It puts a whole system, integrated approach at the heart of our future innovation. COP26 showed what global collaboration can achieve in the push towards net zero – through this initiative we have an opportunity to work together to help deliver our shared ambitions for a cleaner, more affordable energy future.”

JAEA’s Executive Director for International Affairs, Mr. Kentaro FUNAKI, stressed, while presenting a concept model of nuclear and renewable integrated energy systems and highlighting high temperature gas-cooled reactor as a key to such systems:

“We are already partners in nuclear research and innovation to move forward towards a future net-zero carbon society, and we all have solid grounds to design, develop and deploy nuclear-renewable hybrid systems. This Summit will lead us to a shared vision of future integrated energy systems as well as enhanced international collaboration.”

Dr Stéphane Sarrade, from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), added:

“CEA is proud to participate in this initiative that encompasses the R&D work we performed, especially since the creation early 2020 of the Energy Division, whose main purpose is to promote innovation towards and integrated energy system. This is also in line with French Energy policy, based on the use and convergence of nuclear and renewable energies, and is an integral part of the joint efforts made at the European Union level through the cooperation between the Member States Research and Technology Organizations active in the energy field.

“Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) welcomes a new era of international collaboration to accelerate the global adoption of clean energy and the critical role of integrated energy systems”, said Dr Jeff Griffin, VP, Science & Technology, CNL. “CNL’s clean energy mission is driving research and development in hydrogen technology, advanced reactors and fuels and the sustainable operation of our current CANDU fleet. And CNL is leading innovation as we look to explore how we can build a clean-energy systems demonstration platform around a small modular nuclear reactor. Collective knowledge is a powerful tool, and we look forward to sharing our expertise, research and learning to help shape the energy systems of the future.”

“Transitioning to a low-carbon energy system is critically important for global sustainability, and integrated energy systems can harness the benefits of clean energy sources working together, including nuclear and renewables. Idaho National Laboratory is pleased to engage with labs around the world to discuss how to achieve this ambitious goal,” said Dr. Marianne Walck, chief research officer for Idaho National Laboratory. “Our research for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy enables us to play a key role in meeting our growing energy needs while also reducing carbon emissions.”

Doug Arent, Executive Director of Strategic Public Private Partnerships at the USA’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) added:

“Building off many years of our domestic collaborations focused on low carbon Integrated Energy Systems, we are excited to participate in this international collaboration among national laboratories.”