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NIE Networks Sustainable Energy Laboratory officially opens at Queen’s University Belfast

A new energy lab has officially opened at Queen’s University Belfast, inspiring the next generation of engineering students to help deliver a carbon net-zero future for Northern Ireland’s electricity needs.

NIE Networks Sustainable Energy Laboratory officially opens at Queen’s University Belfast, pictured (l-r) Dame Rotha Johnston, NIE Chair; Dr Stephen Kingon, Queen's University; Professor Karen Rafferty, Queen's University; Derek Hynes, NIE and student, Yuzhu Sun.

The NIE Networks Sustainable Energy Laboratory marks the beginning of a 10-year partnership to find the energy innovations and talent of the future.

Representing a significant investment for the company, the laboratory at the Ashby Building in Stranmillis will be used to educate students on how electricity will be the driving force in the transition towards sustainable energy infrastructure and ultimately how that will deliver a zero-carbon future.

Offering a cutting-edge teaching and research experience, the laboratory is installed with equipment spanning the full electrical energy spectrum, from sustainable generation such as wind and solar, to digital substations and cyber resilient national infrastructure.

Derek Hynes, Managing Director of NIE Networks, said: “We are delighted to officially open the first ever NIE Networks Sustainable Energy Laboratory and mark the beginning of a crucial decade of collaboration with our colleagues at Queen’s University.

“The next decade will see a major shift in the adoption of renewables, the electrification of heat and transport and the deployment of smart technologies on to the electricity network. The laboratory houses state-of-the-art equipment and harnesses the best of academia and our own electrical engineering experts to benefit the teaching of our future electrical engineers.

“We are embarking on what will be the most significant change to the electricity network since rural electrification in the 1960s and electricity is going to be the leading force in the transition to a zero-carbon future. The students learning within the new laboratory will be fundamental in helping us realise our sustainable energy vision.”

The establishment of the laboratory partnership builds further on the already successful collaboration between the two organisations which spans over twenty years and in the last decade has included both graduate and scholarship programmes. In recent years, over 70 engineers have come through the specific NIE Networks sponsored programmes at the University.

The laboratory serves a core of 140 Electrical & Electronic Engineering (EEE) students, as well as students enrolled on Computer Engineering and Computer Science pathways.

Dr David Laverty, QUB School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said: "Electricity is the fuel supply of our sustainable energy future. As we reduce our planetary use of fossil fuels, electricity will deliver clean sources of energy to our homes, businesses and industries. Working with NIE Networks, we are training the next generation of electrical engineers with the new skills they need for exciting careers at the forefront of the energy transition.

Helen Carrick, Assistant Director of Philanthropy at Queen’s University, said: “We’re grateful to NIE Networks for their continued support of Queen’s University, notably through the NIE Networks Scholarship Programme and now through their investment in the NIE Networks Sustainable Energy Laboratory.

“Enhancing the experience of our students through collaboration with businesses and organisations is increasingly important. Collaborations like this open up new opportunities for our students,

improving their learning environment and providing insights into career paths that are fulfilling and future-proof. This commitment to education and belief in the potential of our students by NIE Networks is greatly appreciated by everyone at the University.”