10 July 2018
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has released its first National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), which calls for £3.8bn to be invested by 2030 into improving the UK’s social housing stock, on top of a switch to low-cost, greener energy.
Switching to greener methods of generating power for homes and businesses without raising bills will be possible, according to the report, by investing in renewable technologies like wind and solar. The report also stresses the need to encourage city growth through long-term strategies for transport, employment, and housing to support economic growth.
Several of our in-house experts have lent their perspectives on the report below.
Improving transport capacity within and between cities – Doug McDougall, Director of Transport
The NIA recognises the need for more investment in UK infrastructure and looks to the private sector to meet the bulk of the funding need. The document places huge emphasis on electric vehicles, but acknowledges that, for this to be viable, a comprehensive network of chargers needs to be in place to facilitate rapid charging at the roadside.
It also highlights a shift in thinking from the current trend of improving interconnectivity between town and cities to focusing more investment on improving transport capacity within cities. The Commission identifies the need for over £40bn of additional investment in transport by 2040 to unlock the capacity to allow our cities to thrive.
Retrofitting major infrastructure to encourage modal shift in cities is complex, however, and can lead to unintended consequences. We must learn from experience to avoid increased congestion, street clutter, and the diminution of the public realm, which could all hurt economic activity.
There also seems to be little reference to any actual long-term capacity upgrades in the document, nor any certainty about how the funding gap will be met. This will need to be addressed.
The renewable energy gap – Simon Sjenitzer, Director of Strategic and Advisory Management
The report in relation to energy generation seems to fly slightly in the face of conventional wisdom. There is a ‘test it out and see’ attitude to Nuclear power with acceptance that we need perhaps just one more new build, in addition to plans for Hinkley Point C.
The publication of the first ever NIA claims that 30 percent of our current power requirements comes from renewables and that this should be ramped up to 50 percent in just 12 years from now. It fails to recognise the intermittent reliability of wind and solar, which is exemplified by the fact that at present, only 18 percent is coming from all renewables, necessitating over 20 percent generation from nuclear.
If there is truly to be a significant investment and deployment of wind and solar, and a ‘golden opportunity’ to switch to low carbon energy, more clarification is needed on where these new solar farms are going to be located and why there is still a moratorium on the cheapest form of energy – onshore wind.
Embracing collaboration for a sustainable environment – Dave Corbin, Director and Head of Project Management
As Lord Ardonis pointed out at a recent New Engineering Contracts conference, the UK’s highest profile infrastructure projects are more expensive than anywhere else in the world and that industry now has a responsibility to take forward the pipeline of large UK infrastructure projects.
The funding of the proposed investments (or lack thereof) will, no doubt, be the key headline, but so is the industry’s responsibility to embark on an approach that leads to responsible and affordable development. Collaboration, trust, shared benefit, and transparency are all words that we have talked about for a long time, but those concepts are often missing to this day in the infrastructure world.
I liken our industry to football fans wanting to change to the way of rugby – from confrontational, physically segregated parties to mixed groups with manageable confrontation and an understanding of boundaries.
We need to be brave enough to change the way we have contracted in the past and embrace collaborative working to make the future a more sustainable environment. I fear that the current culture and the fear of failure (and the consequences thereof) will prevent this from happening in the immediate future.
We look forward to the second assessment due in 2023. To read the full report, please visit this page.