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Commission key to delivering energy capacity

Energy

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) could be key to joining up the energy market as rail electrification and autonomous vehicles become more widespread, according to a leading figure at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Institution of Mechanical Engineers head of energy and environment Jenifer Baxter told New Civil Engineer that more joined up thinking within the electricity supply chain was needed to deliver capacity for new rail electrification programmes and the expected increase in electric car use.

She said that there has to be a wider discussion around the point at which electrification would potentially need more or less generating capacity or improved demand side technologies or smart technologies that would help the grid to balance its electricity supplies.

“It is at what milestones on the process to electrification of the railways and motor vehicles do we do this [step the electricity generation up or down],” said Baxter.

“Autonomous vehicles are almost all electric so it is about understanding what the different futures look like and what that means for energy generation. It’s a very complicated picture.”

She said that the NIC could facilitate this process and improve communication between people designing transport systems, power generators and those delivering it through National Grid.

Explaining the consequences of not communicating between the different sections of the industry, she said that changes to transport, whether it was through reduced emission or speed of movement, would take much longer to deliver than people had hoped.

“We will maintain an old system of power generation for much longer than people had hoped because there isn’t a firm and understood way in which we can deliver new power stations,” she said.

“It’s more that the process will take much longer than government, than industry and probably than society hopes to see change in things like emissions, pollution, faster transport systems, that modern age technology.”

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