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Last edited 26 Nov 2020
National Infrastructure Assessment 2018
Established in 2015, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is an independent body tasked with providing advice to the Government about how best to meet the country’s long-term infrastructure needs. This includes; transport, energy, digital, water, waste and flood defences. It is charged with delivering a National Infrastructure Assessment once every five years.
The first National Infrastructure Assessment was published in July 2018, setting out recommendations for improving the country’s infrastructure network up to 2050. It suggests there is a ‘golden opportunity’ to provide low-carbon energy to homes and businesses without increasing bills, but calls on ministers to act now.
NIC chair Sir John Armitt proposes that a switch towards low-carbon and renewable sources for power and heating, and a move towards electric vehicles, could mean the customer of 2050 would pay the same in real terms for their energy as today. But he warns this would only be possible if the government continues to invest in low-cost renewable technologies, increases efforts to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and enables a rapid switch to electric vehicles.
The assessment recommends that:
- The Government takes steps to ensure a minimum of 50% of electricity comes from renewables in 2030.
- The Government only agrees support for one more nuclear plant before 2025.
- Established technologies like wind and solar power should be allowed to compete to deliver the overwhelming majority of the extra renewable electricity needed.
- The feasibility of hydrogen and heat pumps as low-carbon alternatives to oil and gas for heating should be established.
- Efforts should be ramped up to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
- £3.8 billion should be invested between now and 2030 to make improvements to social housing stock.
- The Government should devise a National Broadband Plan by Spring 2019.
- The Government should work with councils and private companies to deliver a national network of charging points for electric vehicles.
- Metro Mayors and city leaders should develop and implement long-term strategies for transport, employment and housing in their areas.
- The Government should develop a long-term strategy to deliver a nationwide standard of flood resilience by 2050.
- New national rules should be developed for what can and cannot be recycled.
Armitt said; “Whether for cooking, lighting, keeping homes warm or electric cars on the road, where the UK’s energy comes from will need to change radically over the coming decades if the UK is to meet its legally-binding climate change targets… Ministers can seize this chance by investing in renewables and other low-carbon technologies so they become the main players in our energy system – something that was considered a pipedream as little as a decade ago. But they need to act now to realise the full potential of what can be achieved.”
The Charter for the NIC requires that the Government responds to its recommendations no more than a year after publication, and wherever possible within six months.
 Global Engineering Congress
In October 2018, Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and ICE Past President, called on the engineering community to back the recommendations made in the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) published in July 2018.
During his keynote speech at the Global Engineering Congress (GEC), Sir John said; “I would urge all of you in this room to support us to make it happen, making the case clearly and regularly for our recommendations, including on supporting the rollout of electric vehicles, tackling waste and improving the energy efficiency of our homes.”
Addressing the rollout of a national charging network for electric vehicles, he emphasised the crucial role of infrastructure as an enabler, saying; “The last thing we want is for the state of our infrastructure to slow down that progress and threaten the interest and excitement in these new vehicles.”
Sir John highlighted research and trials into; alternatives to fossil fuels for heating, flood resilience measures, and increased investment in new infrastructure to reduce the risk of drought. He said that the challenges for the UK were not unique and offered the NIA as a potential blueprint for action for other nations.
Referring to the October 2018 UN climate change report, Sir John reiterated “...its starkest-ever warnings of what could happen if we don’t act now to protect our planet for the future”. He said; “As engineers, we have a responsibility – a duty, in fact – to play our part, by helping to develop the technologies that will mitigate the impacts of climate change, and to design and deliver the infrastructure that will protect our communities from its worst effects... I know that as a profession, you will stand ready to offer your support and expertise to organisations, whether in the public or private sectors, to find those innovative solutions to help reduce, and protect communities from, the impact of global climate change."
[This article was originally published here by ICE on 25 Oct 2018. It was written by Vienn McMasters.]
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