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10 JUL 2018

National Infrastructure Assessment 2018

Today’s release of the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) National Infrastructure Assessment has gone some way in providing advice to the government on how best to meet the country’s long-term infrastructure needs.

Green energy

The NIC heralds a golden opportunity on shifting to greener sources of energy to power homes and businesses. The report has significant focus and recommends a switch to low carbon and renewable energy sources, which is appropriate given climate change targets and policy commitments to ban the sale of combustion engine cars by 2040. 

The NIC heralds a golden opportunity on shifting to greener sources of energy to power homes and businesses. The report recommends a switch to low carbon and renewable energy sources.

The commission encourages that prompt decisions need to be taken to invest in low cost renewable technologies so to generate sufficient capacity, 50% by 2030, over the medium to longer term. The government should assess the potential capital expenditure involved for this investment through the use of the International Construction Measurement Standard (ICMS).

Recommendations

  • Established technologies like wind and solar power be allowed to compete to deliver the overwhelming majority of the extra renewable electricity needed as overall demand increases, with measures to move them to the front of the queue for government support.
  • Government sets out a clear pipeline, with dates and budgets, for future auctions to support renewables.
  • The feasibility of hydrogen and heat pumps as a low-carbon alternative to oil and gas for heating be established, with community-level trials for hydrogen in place by 2021, and a trial to supply at least 10,000 homes by 2023.

Infrastructure network

The NIC’s responsibilities include providing recommendations for delivering improvements to the UK’s infrastructure network up to 2050. Reports in individual sectors have been covered independently of this assessment.

Recommendations across infrastructure

  • Digital technology – that the government devise a National Broadband Plan by Spring 2019, to deliver full fibre connections across the whole of the country, including those in rural areas – this should ensure that the technology is available to 15 million homes and businesses by 2025, 25 million by 2030, and all homes and businesses by 2033.
  • The future for the nation’s roads – that the government work with councils and private companies to deliver a national network of charging points for electric vehicles and ensures that the impacts of connected and autonomous vehicles are taken into account when planning for the next rail control period and road investment strategy.
  • Encouraging growth of cities – that metro mayors and city leaders develop and implement long-term strategies for transport, employment and housing in their areas, to support economic growth, with new powers and devolved infrastructure budgets. The National Infrastructure Assessment’s spending plans include funding for projects including Crossrail 2 in London, and Northern Powerhouse Rail linking the major Northern cities, and recommends a boost in funding for major cities totalling £43 billion to 2040, with cities given stable five-year budgets, starting in 2021.
  • Tackling floods – that the government should put in place a long-term strategy to deliver a nationwide standard of flood resilience by 2050 with funding for flood risk management increasing significantly over the coming decades.
  • Cutting waste – that new national rules for what can and cannot be recycled be introduced, with restrictions on the hardest-to-recycle plastics, aimed at increasing rates and reducing the amount of plastics going to incinerators. This would also mean that all food waste is separated making it available to create biogas, so it can be used to heat people’s homes and potentially as a transport fuel.

Government response

The government is due to respond to the recommendations as set out by the NIC in the next 6-12 months. As there are significant cost implications involved in the recommendations, RICS recommends the use of ICMS to calculate the capital expenditure and analysis of the cost benefit, if such an approach is adopted.