CBI: Infrastructure Commission needs ‘strong teeth’ to deliver low-carbon future

The long-term future of the UK is at risk of being "way-laid by politics" if the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) doesn't deliver a fully integrated, low-carbon future that mitigates the impact of climate change, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned.

A new paper released today (29 February) from CBI called on the NIC to deliver a low-carbon energy supply, embrace circular economy and promote modernised transport networks while simultaneously preparing for the roll-out of 5G mobile connectivity as ways to strengthen UK infrastructure.

CBI’s business environment director Rhian Kelly said: “The National Infrastructure Commission gives the UK the perfect opportunity to carefully and strategically plot the course of its long-term infrastructure needs.

“With a strong Commission, we can deliver the projects – from upgrading our digital connectivity to boost productivity, to investing in new energy sources for a low-carbon economy – that will enable firms up and down the country to get on with growing our economy and creating jobs for the long-run.

“For this to happen though, it’s vital the Commission is not blown off course by politics. This independent body must be given strong teeth by politicians so that it can recommend significant infrastructure decisions, like building a new runway in the South East, are made for the future benefit of all.”


The paper reveals that increased efforts are needed to drive the UK into a low-carbon future. The paper recommends that the electrification of the heat and transport sectors is not only vital to creating a low-carbon economy, but would also require significant upgrades to infrastructure which would increase electricity demand by 93%.

Research has already warned that almost one third of UK local power networks could be overloaded if electric vehicles (EVs) become a mainstream motoring choice.

Energy mix

The paper states that the UK energy mix is also in need of a re-vamp which would see the UK source from a wider range of availabilities, including tapping into the potential of biomass and other under-utilised renewable sources.

DECC’s provisional energy statistics revealed that almost half of the UK’s electricity supply is sourced from low-carbon generators.

Another recommendation is for the UK to extract and store energy from a wide range of sources. Tidal, hydro and carbon capture – still recovering after the Government scrapped at £1bn competition – should be developed alongside a circular economy to reduce costs.

Research has previously suggested that the UK can cut the cost of decarbonising its electricity supply by more than £3.5bn if it can create a grid-scale electricity storage system to balance the variable output of renewables.

The paper has also implored the NIC to promote the growth of mobile coverage by preparing for the roll-out for 5G technology. The VP of sustainability and corporate responsibility at global ICT company Ericsson spoke to edie of her beliefs that 5G is the key to a decarbonised and connected planet.

Floods and maintenance

The paper predicts that the number of properties at risk of flooding will rise to 2.1 million by 2050. To combat CBI is calling on increased investment efforts such as the £40m package from central government last month.

The remaining recommendations cover the concept of modernising the rail system, future-proofing the UK’s water infrastructure, improving road maintenance and accessing emerging trade markets through improved ports and airports.

NIC’s chief executive Phil Graham has already spoken of the importance of energy storage in regards to Britain’s future energy network. But the National Grid – among a clutch of other business and environmental groups – has asked for insights on the UK’s future infrastructure needs and how they could be met.

8 Business Priorities for National Infrastructure Commission

Matt Mace

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