UKERC Cited in the NIC Second National Infrastructure Assessment

26 Oct 2023

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) provides the government with impartial, expert advice on major, long-term infrastructure challenges. The Commission wields considerable authority, operating as an executive agency of the Treasury and offering advice that the government is obligated to respond to (although the government is not compelled to agree or accept NIC recommendations). The NIC’s jurisdiction encompasses all sectors of economic infrastructure, including energy, which is the focus of this brief news item.

Released once during each Parliament, the National Infrastructure Assessment scrutinizes the UK’s long-term economic infrastructure requirements, establishing a strategic vision and making recommendations to the government.

Following a public consultation, the NIC recently published its recommendations in their Second National Infrastructure Assessment report. We were delighted to observe that the response from UKERC was cited in the report, with a specific section highlighting UKERC’s contribution to the definition of flexible technologies (as detailed below).

Rob Gross, the Director of UKERC, also served as a member of the NIC’s Expert Panel on Energy. This group was convened to provide feedback on the analysis conducted by and commissioned for the NIC to inform their energy system recommendations featured in their report.

The NIC highlights numerous advantages associated with transitioning away from fossil fuels. These benefits encompass energy security, price stability, affordability, improved productivity, and an enhanced quality of life.

The NIC underscores the significance of embracing the energy transition. In many respects, the NIC’s recommendations are both bold and extensive. One of the most notable recommendations is their assertion that there is no public policy case for using hydrogen to heat buildings. This conclusion is remarkable and exceeds any statement made thus far by a UK public body. Therefore, the NIC’s recommendations on heating primarily focus on supporting the installation of heat pumps. These measures include:

  1. A subsidy of £7,000 per household for the installation of a heat pump or connection to a heat network, coupled with a zero-interest loan for the remaining costs.
  2. A £5.1 billion fund allocated for capital spending on energy efficiency in social housing, along with zero percent financing options for households and businesses investing in energy efficiency.

The NIC does not entirely dismiss the potential of hydrogen. In fact, they recommend the development of a core network (or backbone) to deliver hydrogen to industrial sites by 2035. Similar recommendations are made for a CO2 backbone to facilitate Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

Additionally, the NIC provides recommendations related to the security of energy supply, including a target of 60 GW of short-term storage capacity by 2035 and 30 TWh of persistent low-carbon flexible generation to manage periods of low wind in winter. This primarily entails long-term storage options such as hydrogen and/or CCS in gas.

The NIC mandates the Independent System Operator to formulate a strategic energy plan by 2025, calls for regional system planners, and requires Ofgem to ensure that investment in local electricity networks is sufficient to meet the demands of electric vehicles and heat pumps.

Lastly, the NIC delivers robust recommendations on the necessity of investing in public transport and reducing car usage, particularly in growing cities like Bristol, Birmingham, and Leeds. These are just a few highlights, as it is impractical to provide comprehensive details on all the recommendations and analyses presented in the Second Assessment. Many of their broader recommendations also touch upon the energy sector’s role in enhancing the UK’s resilience to climate change impacts and its ability to improve overall well-being and quality of life.