NIC calls for 'decisive action' to deliver flexible electricity system
The government's infrastructure advisor has told ministers that ensuring there are "no barriers" to future interconnector projects should be prioritised as the UK exits the EU.
In its Annual Monitoring Report (AMR), published today (Wednesday), the National Infrastructure Commission, notes that an additional 1GW of interconnection capacity came on stream during 2019.
In addition, it points to Ofgem’s regulatory approval for the construction of a further 12.9GW of interconnection capacity during the year.
It says that this additional interconnector capacity combined with other moves, such as the reinstatement of the UK’s Capacity Market, meant there had been progress on developing a flexible electricity system during 2019.
“These ongoing successes show there is potential for the UK to develop a flexible, highly renewable energy system.”
And the NIC says more “concerted and decisive” action must be taken to deliver a flexible electricity system, including work by the government to maintain access to future interconnector projects in its negotiations with the EU.
The report, which tracks the government’s progress on meeting the NIC’s own recommended infrastructure improvements, warns that the UK’s interconnector capacity could be at risk if access is not agreed in the upcoming negotiations on the future relationship with the EU.
The report also calls for legislation to support the deployment of electricity storage by providing a statutory definition of the technology.
While the report says it is “not too late” to address the infrastructure issues faced by the UK, the government must get delivery “back on track”.
The first step must be the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy, which the government has announced will happen alongside next month’s Budget.
The report says: “It is not enough to merely signal intention. Government must follow through on its commitments by taking difficult decisions, making clear plans, and providing necessary funding.”
Sir John Armitt, chair of the NIC, said: “The UK desperately needs a strategy that looks well beyond this Parliament, setting out infrastructure policy and funding up to 2050. It must contain goals, plans to achieve them, funding to deliver those, and deadlines for delivery.”
The publication of the AMR follows yesterday’s announcement that James Heath has been appointed as new chief executive of the 40-strong NIC.
Heath, who is currently director of digital infrastructure at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was previously director of policy at the BBC.
He led the DCMS through the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review and Telecoms Supply Chain Review, and had overall responsibility for broadband, mobile and telecoms security policy, including the 5G rollout.
Heath replaces Phil Graham, who left the NIC last month to become executive director for good growth at the Greater London Authority.
This article first appeared on Utility Week.
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