Energy, transport and digital top priorities in ICE-led National Needs Assessment (NNA) of UK infrastructure launched today.
The assessment was undertaken over the last 15 months, engaging with a wide range of parties including industry; investors; environmental, legal and professional bodies; and politicians and opinion formers.
The report outlines the changing demands on infrastructure services. Population growth will continue to put pressure on services, particularly in areas already under stress, such as the South East, as well as resilience challenges from climate change.
The NNA vision imagines a nation with balanced economic growth, thriving communities and a low carbon future. It sets out how the UK can become a world leader in a new technology-driven revolution in infrastructure services.
A series of recommendations are made by the NNA to develop infrastructure that aims to position the UK as an innovative global trading nation. It is a blueprint for the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) own National Infrastructure Assessment, due to be published in 2017. In addition, it recommends areas for immediate attention through the NIC’s shorter-term reports.
“We project that the UK population is set to reach 75M by 2050, and with that growth there will be an increasing and changing demand for infrastructure services. Users of infrastructure are increasingly conscious and vocal about the everyday challenges presented by these demands. We must deliver services that enable productivity, health and wellbeing and balanced economic growth,” said Sir John Armitt, deputy chair of the NNA and president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
“This assessment is not a list of projects and the UK cannot afford to spend its way out of challenges by building more capacity. Technology, supported by the right policies, will enable new and existing infrastructure to be used much more efficiently.
“The county needs a clear strategy, management and establishment of critical standards for our infrastructure to sustain and improve quality of life and business competitiveness in a modern and evolving world. If we don’t, we will lose out on many opportunities, particularly in a post-Brexit economy.”
According to the NNA, energy, transport and digital sectors will have the biggest impact on future infrastructure with a number of interdependencies. The NNA said these three sectors will have the greatest impact on people’s lives in 2050 and steps need to be taken now to address challenges.
Armitt added: “The scenarios modelled show energy and transport have the largest interdependencies. For example the electrification in transport that is needed to meet decarbonisation targets will have a direct impact on our electricity consumption. In fact, the research shows without management electricity demand could almost double. Government needs to address this with a balanced policy.
“Infrastructure policies should transcend political cycles across all infrastructure sectors but particularly for energy. We have already seen investors deterred from backing carbon capture and photovoltaic panels due to changing UK policy. Government must address the interdependencies in infrastructure and create policies with a cross-sector approach. ”
During the NNA study, energy supply was shown to be underpinning the future of all infrastructure development. The NNA recommends that the government makes energy supply a priority and commits to a plan for low carbon electricity generation capacity which ensures security of supply through to at least 2035. The NNA also urges government to commit to a diverse mix of electricity generation based on nuclear, renewables, gas and interconnectors, and set out an expectation generation.
“We know the government is looking to spend on infrastructure and take advantage of low borrowing rates. What is vital, however, is that any money is spent in the best and most strategic way with a vision that will benefit the whole of the UK. Infrastructure is the foundation of a successful and growing economy, and post-Brexit we need to make sure we are planning for our future,” said Armitt.