The rollout of heat pumps, the number of electric vehicle (EV) chargepoints and renewable generation have all been identified as key issues for meeting the challenges posed by climate change.
They form four of the nine projects the National Infrastructure Commission has announced will sit at the heart of its next major assessment of the UK’s long term infrastructure priorities, which will be released in 2023.
It is producing the report to address unanswered questions around the net zero transition, such as the limits of heat pumps for heating and the role of hydrogen for example, it said.
Within a baseline report published yesterday (15 November), the commission said that there has been limited progress in the transition to low carbon heating for homes so far and criticised the “stop start” approach to energy efficiency policy.
The UK government has set a target of a minimum of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028, a figure recently reconfirmed in the Net Zero Strategy in October.
As part of the Heat and Buildings strategy – also released in October – the government announced a new grant scheme for the installation of heat pumps, with this part of a £450 million scheme to upgrade domestic heating infrastructure.
While many have welcomed the direction of these recent announcements, others have criticised the speed with which action to decarbonise the heating network is being taken.
The National Infrastructure Commission continued to note that transport will be a key focus as emissions have not been declining although EV chargepoint numbers are increasing. For example, there are now 24,374 public charging points in the UK according to recent research from UK100. However, to meet growing demand, 325,000 will be needed by 2032.
“The pace needs to pick up to enable a transition to electric vehicles in the 2020s and 2030s,” noted the National Infrastructure Commission.
Major strides have been made in decarbonising electricity generation, with renewables now accounting for around 40% of electricity. But this needs to go even further, with substantial emissions reductions still needed if the grid is to reach its target of net zero emissions by 2035.
These three topics, along with six others that look at recycling, public transport, roads and more, will be investigated against three strategic themes within the second National Infrastructure Assessment. These themes are: reaching net zero, reducing environmental impacts and building resilience and leveling up communities.
Writing in the baseline report’s foreword, Sir John Armitt, chair of the Commission, said the strategic themes “each pose urgent and wide ranging questions”.
“Each draw broad political and public support for their end goal. Each, however, offer few quick wins or cheap fixes.
“We will now embark on this work – informed by input and insight from industry, political leaders, representative bodies, other organisations across the country and the public – and formulate policy recommendations to put forward to government.”
The full assessment will include costed policy recommendations for government, which cover the next 10-30 years. It will build on the findings of the first assessment, which was published in 2018 and led to the government’s first National Infrastructure Strategy.
The National Infrastructure Commission has issued a Call for Evidence along with the baseline report, to allow stakeholders to submit data to inform the commissions work going forwards.