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Pupils from West Lane Primary school in Winlaton have prepared a time capsule to be buried at the site of an innovative project which will explore how energy is used in the future.

The project, located at Northern Gas Networks’ (NGN) research site at Low Thornley, Gateshead involves building nine homes from different building eras to create a unique ‘Customer Energy Village’ which will be used to research different technologies for decarbonising home energy use.

The village consists of three 1910 terraced homes, two semi-detached 1930s houses, a 1950s bungalow, two flats from the 1970s and a detached home from the 1990s, to represent millions of UK homes.   They will be used as a test bed for different technologies to understand which energy solutions are best suited to decarbonise different housing stock and how energy use can be reduced.

The pupils aged five to 11 years have included their ideas of how people will be using energy in 2050 and placed them inside the time capsule.

Rachel Smith, aged nine said “I think in 2050 they will have solar panels on lamp posts to not use as much gas and electricity. It is important to tackle climate change because the world would be in danger if we don’t do anything about it.”

Maddie Maughan, aged nine added “In 2050 I think buses will have solar panels to help them to run and it will save on petrol and diesel. In 2050 more schools should have hydrogen gas so they can help the environment.”

Twenty eight years from now, in 2050 – the year the government has targeted for the UK to reach net zero carbon emissions – the school’s future pupils will reopen the capsule.

The school children brought the time capsule to the Customer Energy Village today (Tuesday 15th March) and had the opportunity to look at the contents of three time capsules found recently by NGN during the demolition of a gas holder in Bradford.

The time capsules had been placed inside the gas holder during construction in 1937.  Each contains a copy of the local newspaper and documents listing the date of the construction and engineering, overseen by the Bradford Gas Corporation and Chief Engineer G.E. Currier.

Construction of the new Customer Energy Village began in February and is expected to be completed in the autumn.  The homes are being built by Northern Gas Networks with support from its partners including Newcastle University, National Energy Action and North East Energy Catalyst. The project secured £1.96 million from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) through the Local Growth Fund and Getting Building Fund.

The North East LEP is managing £47m awarded through the Getting Building Fund to support capital investment across the North East. The Fund was established early in the coronavirus pandemic to kick-start the economy, create jobs and help areas realise growth opportunities coming out of the coronavirus pandemic. The £47m awarded to the North East LEP area through the Getting Building Fund has been fully committed against 20 capital projects across the region.

Andrew Moffat CBE, Chair of the North East LEP Investment Board, said: “Innovations in low carbon heat and heat networks developed here in the North East will play a significant role in helping government achieve its net zero target by 2050 and support local innovation, new technological developments and products as we seek low and no carbon energy solutions.

“The funding we have awarded the Customer Energy Village project through the Getting Building Fund will support vital research into how we heat our homes in a more environmentally friendly and cost effective way.

“The North East is fast becoming the UK’s first low carbon energy cluster because of the skills, talent and experience that exist in our region. The Customer Energy Village will further demonstrate why the North East is at the forefront of the UK’s green industrial revolution.”

Keith Owen, Head of Systems Development at Northern Gas Networks explains: “There is increasing awareness and urgency to address the challenges of climate change. We are all very aware and increasingly vocal about the impact our changing climate is having on our way of life, our health and the profound changes being seen in the natural environment and the need to act now to protect our future.

“Home heating accounts for one third of the UK’s carbon emissions, so the way we heat our homes and use energy and other resources, such as water, needs to change quickly.

“It’s a hugely complex challenge and we need to identify a variety of solutions that will work across the wide range of homes in the UK. For this reason, each property in the Customer Energy Village has been designed in keeping with the era in which it was built rather than today’s building standards so we can fully understand the impact building fabric and original design can have on the decarbonisation of the homes we live in. This will help us identify the most efficient and affordable solutions that work to support a fair transition to low carbon living for all.”

Gateshead Council, which has its own goal to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 and last year adopted a Zero Carbon Heat Strategy, collaborated in Customer Energy Village design workshops providing an insight into the real-world issues facing their residents, to reduce energy and water consumption and cut their carbon footprint.

Councillor Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said: “We are very glad to be a partner in this important project. We have a huge variety of different homes and energy needs in Gateshead, so it’s vital we identify the right technologies to help all our residents reduce their carbon footprints and improve energy efficiency.”



Dated: 15/03/2022
Northern Gas Networks Low Thornley site.
Schoolchildren from Winlaton West Lane Primary School visit the Customer Energy village to place a time capsule as part of the launch of the forthcoming development. 

NGN Notes to editor

  1. Since we started operating in 2005, we’ve been leading the way as one of the most cost-efficient of the UK’s eight gas distribution networks. We deliver great value for money to our customers, as well as a whole host of social and economic benefits to our region. We’re recognised as a dynamic, passionate, conscious and people focused team that safely and reliably delivers gas to over 2.7 million homes and businesses across the North East, northern Cumbria and much of Yorkshire.
  2. Although we don’t source the gas, fix boilers and appliances, or get involved with plumbing, we work with those that do to deliver it through a vast network of underground pipes that are constantly being invested in and upgraded. It’s more complicated than it sounds so we’re always exploring cutting-edge thinking, revolutionary engineering practices and world-class science to find new ways to provide sustainable sources of energy. And while our customers may not see us very often, they can sleep soundly knowing that we’re working around the clock to keep them connected and make sure they stay safe. For more information visit the Northern Gas Networks website. Alternatively, like us on Facebookor follow us on Twitter.
  3. Feasibility funding from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) Local Growth Fund was secured by NGN in collaboration with Newcastle University, Gateshead Council, the North East Energy Catalyst, Northumbrian Water, Northern Powergrid, 3 mobile and CKHIOD.

You can contact Northern Gas Networks’ press office on: 0113 322 7950 during office hours (between 8.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays) or call the out of hours service on 0113 322 7978 at any other time.


About the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is a public, private, and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas.



About the Getting Building Fund
In August 2020, the UK government announced a £900 million Getting Building Fund to deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure across the country. This investment was targeted to areas facing the biggest economic challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It is supporting the delivery of shovel-ready infrastructure projects, agreed with mayors and Local Enterprise Partnerships, to boost economic growth, and fuel local recovery and jobs. The £47m awarded to the North East LEP area through the Getting Building Fund has been fully committed.

Find out more about the Getting Building Fund at www.gov.uk.