The National Infrastructure Commission’s long term vision for sustainable economic infrastructure

The National Infrastructure Commission, set up to address the problems associated with long term infrastructure planning in the UK, has recently published its long term vision for sustainable economic infrastructure.

The Commission’s recommendations, which are the result of a two year study, take a cross sectorial approach, with in-depth analysis and wide consultation amongst the public, industry, academics, local and national government.

Integral to the Commission’s recommendations are its view that:

  • half of the UK’s power should be provided by renewables by 2030, and;
  • the UK should be prepared for 100% electric vehicle sales by 2030

The report highlights the rapid deployment of renewable energy over the last ten years, and the scope to build on this success in years to come. Increasing deployment of renewables is crucial to help deliver a clean and low cost energy system for the UK, and the Commission’s modelling has shown that a high renewable energy mix is an achievable low cost option.

Inevitably some changes will need to be made to enable the increase in renewables. Increased system flexibility to match energy supply and demand will be required both within days and across seasons. This can be delivered by a combination of flexible supply, energy storage solutions such as those currently being deployed by FIM/Gresham House, and flexible demand. The report acknowledges the vast technological improvements made in recent years by batteries, which have seen prices fall 80% since 2010.

The Commission’s analysis demonstrates that the rapid uptake of electric vehicles expected in the 2020s can be accommodated if the government provides the right environment to support and encourage the switch, such as thorough subsidised charger installation.

The report furthermore emphasises the need to move away from relying on fossil fuels and nuclear technology in order to achieve its emissions targets, and with renewables becoming cost competitive it is now conceivable to have a low cost electricity system that is principally powered by renewable energy sources.

The Commission has focused on key priorities to equip the UK with the infrastructure it needs in a first Assessment. The government has committed to lay the Assessment before Parliament, and to respond to it within six months.

If these recommendations are implemented, the impact should be extremely positive for both power prices and the value of renewable energy assets.

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