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National Infrastructure Strategy unveiled detailing 'ambitious' energy commitments

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Measures to improve the UK's green infrastructure - including the creation of a UK infrastructure bank, a ramping up of electric vehicle (EV) policy and funding for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) - have been detailed by the government.

The National Infrastructure Strategy builds upon both theSpending Review – also released today – and the government’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution, released last week.

It comes in response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2018 National Infrastructure Assessment and details how the government will look to work closely with investors, industry and households to deliver an “infrastructure revolution”.

Writing in the strategy’s foreword, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the document includes “ambitious commitments on energy, decarbonisation and clean economic growth driving us towards net zero in 2050”.

“The projects in this strategy, including £27 billion of public funding next year, will create wealth and thousands of jobs to repair some of the scars from the pandemic. We must build back better, not the same as before.”

Supporting the deployment of EVs

The strategy made reference to measures outlined in the Ten Point Plan, including a commitment to investing £1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of EV charging in homes, streets and motorways as well as bringing the ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles to 2030.

It said that in order to support the uptake of EVs, there will be a package of regulation, incentives and investment into charging infrastructure delivered in partnership with the auto sector, consumers and the chargepoint industry.

The government will kickstart the delivery of a core rapid charging network across motorways and key A road service stations, expecting to see a high-powered charging hub at every motorway service area by 2023, with these installed by the private sector. In the 2020 Budget, the government unveiled the creation of the Rapid Charging Fund, which would be financing connection costs of high-powered chargers at motorway sites across England.

The government has also committed £90 million to fund local EV charging infrastructure to support the rollout of large, on-street charging schemes and rapid hubs in England.

Support for chargepoint installations at homes, workplaces and on-street locations will also be extended but reformed so that they target difficult parts of the market such as leaseholders and Small and Medium Enterprises.

Lastly, alongside investments into the sector, later in 2020 the government will consult on regulations to improve the consumer experience at public chargepoints looking at payment methods, payment roaming, opening up changepoint data, increasing the reliability of charging infrastructure and ensuring pricing transparency.

Regulating the networks and National Grid ESO

A review into the long-term role and organisational structure for National Grid ESO is to be conducted, with the government stating it’s possible there will need to be “greater independence from the current ownership structure”. National Grid ESO became legally separate from the National Grid group on 1 April 2019.

The government also said that it will need to consider how its own role, as well as the role of Ofgem, the ESO, network operators and the other energy market participants will change over time, with the forthcoming Energy White Paper – which was due to be published this autumn – to outline the government’s approach to the overall governance of the system.

Renewables, CCS and hydrogen

The strategy made reference to this week’s confirmation that solar and onshore wind would be included in the next Contracts for Difference auction in 2021 as well as the commitment to reaching 40GW of offshore wind by 2030.

Alongside this, the government has set a target of deploying 1GW of floating offshore wind by 2030 in a bid to maintain the UK’s leadership in offshore technology.

Measures to support CCS were prominent in the document, with £1 billion committed to bring forward four CCS clusters by 2030. These plans were first announced in the 2020 Budget, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the time stating that a CCS Infrastructure Fund being set up to fund this would consist of at least £800 million.

The government has also set a target of capturing 10 megatons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030 and is to outline further details in 2021 on a revenue mechanism.

Hydrogen, meanwhile, is to benefit from a £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund set to support both blue hydrogen – sourced from methane reformation with CCS – and green hydrogen made using renewable energy and an electrolyser. An aim of the UK developing 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 is now in place.

A UK Hydrogen Strategy is also to be released next year which will detail hydrogen business models and a revenue mechanism.

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