UK Infrastructure Projects ‘Moving Too Slowly’

MONDAY, APRIL 3, 2023


A recent report from the United Kingdom’s National Infrastructure Commission suggests that the government must focus on fewer, bigger targeted initiatives to deliver infrastructure in order to meet its long-term goals for economic growth and lower carbon emissions.

The last year has reportedly seen progress towards major infrastructure objectives “stutter further just as the need for acceleration has heightened,” with the Commission warning that “in a range of areas government is off track to meet its targets and ambitions.”

Report Findings

According to the release, the annual Infrastructure Progress Review highlights positive progress towards nationwide coverage of gigabit broadband by 2030 and continued growth in renewable electricity—both of which, it notes, have enjoyed a relatively stable policy environment.

However, it also criticizes “negligible advances in improving the energy efficiency of homes, the installation of low carbon heating solutions or securing a sustainable balance of water supply and demand,” which have been subject to a more short-term and changeable approach in recent years.

For example, the Commission notes that only 55,000 heat pumps were fitted in 2021, compared to the 1.5 million gas boilers that were fitted, despite the goal for at least 600,000 heat pumps to be installed each year by 2028. Looking at electric vehicle charging points, 300,000 points were to be installed by 2030, but only 37,000 public charge points are currently installed.

Proposals from the Commission for “getting back on track” include:

  • Policy staying power to deliver long-term goals and reduce the uncertainty that adds cost for business and delays or deters investment;
  • Fewer, but bigger and better interventions from central government, with tighter strategic focus on the areas where it can make the most difference rather than “expending too much effort on many small-scale funding interventions and repeated consultations, trying to maintain optionality in all areas”;
  • Greater devolution of funding and decision making, moving away from competitive bidding processes and building on the multi-year funding settlements for combined authorities with long-term devolved budgets for all local transport authorities, while also allowing greater revenue raising powers at a local level;
  • Unblocking delivery barriers, specifically the planning regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects, where updated National Policy Statements for key sectors are the first big step.

The report identifies 10 specific priorities for the year, including an acceleration of home energy efficiency improvements and a faster rollout of public electric vehicle charging points.

Additionally, the Commission highlights the need for government to urgently finalize proposals on water efficiency labelling and new building regulations within the year to help achieve the 110 liters per day consumption target by 2050.

“Private sector investment is also critical for meeting the government’s long-term targets on infrastructure. The UK must remain an internationally competitive place to invest, at a time when the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States and the REPowerEU plan and the Net-Zero Industry Act in the European Union make the investment environment more challenging,” wrote the Commission.

“Ambitious and stable policy from government, alongside effective regulation, is critical for providing the private sector with the certainty it needs to invest.”

Stressing the delays that push back the economic benefits for communities, the report also calls for a “greater sense of certainty” around progressing the high-speed rail system HS2 and Norther Powerhouse Rail.

In a statement, a U.K. Treasury spokesperson said: “We are committed to achieving our net-zero goals and are spending £12.6bn this decade to cut national energy consumption by 15%.

“Delivering high-quality infrastructure is the foundation of our future growth and we have maintained our total investment at record levels over the next five years, with the Commission recognizing our progress on gigabit broadband rollout and renewable electricity generation.”

Later this spring, the Commission plans to publish a review on how to accelerate the planning system for major infrastructure projects. An additional report, the second National Infrastructure Assessment, is expected in the fall to set out costed recommendations on infrastructure priorities for the next 30 years.

The full report can be found here.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Economy; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Emissions; Energy efficiency; Environmental Controls; EU; Funding; Government; Green Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Net Zero Energy ; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Rail; Sustainability; Water/Wastewater

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