Region's Status Hailed by Experts and Business Leaders

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Byline: Paul Loraine

BUSINESS leaders and academics last night told of their excitement after the North East was put at the forefront of the green revolution.

The region was named yesterday as the UK's first Low Carbon Economic Area (LCEA) for ultra-low carbon vehicles, as Nissan announced a pounds 200m investment in its Washington factory that will allow it to produce batteries for electric cars.

As part of the LCEA, a training centre will be set up to specialise in the manufacture and maintenance of the environmentally-friendly vehicles.

The research and development centre will be home to the Universities of Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland, Northumbria and Teesside, looking at all aspects of low-carbon technology.

Research will be done into power consumption and charging patterns, the range extension of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, and energy storage.

One North East chairman Margaret Fay said the region being named an LCEA would open up a raft of opportunities: "It shows the confidence the Government has in the work we and our partners have done in getting this agenda this far forward.

"That's one of the reasons we have been given this title - a lot of it is about recognition of the skills, expertise and know-how we have here.

"Will people now be looking at the North East thinking about opening a plant or relocating? And now it's likely academics and students will want to come to the region - there are so many exciting offshoots."

Over the next two years, 750 charging points for electric cars will be installed in a range of locations in the North East, including supermarkets, public transport installations, hospitals, universities, and domestic and business premises.

Professor Dermot Roddy, professor of energy at Newcastle University, said the region's status as an LCEA was vitally important: "To be labelled this way opens doors when you go back to the Government and say you really should be supporting us in our clean coal and our offshore efforts.

"There's been a lot of work going on to persuade Nissan to do this work here and if we can link that to other work going on in the region, to put in a vehicle charging infrastructure, for example, it will be great for the North East. …