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20 November 2020

880: Ten point plan preempts national infrastructure strategy

Today’s entry reports on the government’s ‘ten point plan for a green industrial revolution’.

On Wednesday 18 November the government (in the name of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) issued a ten point plan for a green industrial revolution. The timing comes a week before the spending review on 25 November, when the very long-awaited national infrastructure strategy is expected to be published. One expects the two documents to be consistent.

So what are the ten points? Here we go. Each one has a little logo to go with it.

  • Point one: Produce 40GW of electricity from offshore wind by 2030, including 1GW from floating offshore wind. It actually says ‘produce 40GW of offshore wind’, I have taken the liberty of rephrasing it to something more meaningful. This commitment was in the Conservative 2019 manifesto and was the subject of a pledge by Boris Johnson on 6 October. There are some sub-commmitments (is that a word?) in achieving this such as 60% UK content and £160 million investment in ports;
  • Point two: Develop 5GW of low carbon hydrogen capacity by 2030, backed by a £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund. This will be the eventual replacement of natural gas for cooking and heating but only by 7% by 2030.
  • Point three: Pursuit of large-scale, small modular and advanced modular nuclear power, with £215 million and £170 million invested in the last two respectively (‘subject to value-for-money and future spending rounds’). This is at odds with the National Infrastructure Assessment, which says only one more nuclear power plant should be authorised;
  • Point four: Ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, with all new vehicles 100% zero emission by 2035 (so they can be hybrids for the five years in between). £500 million to be invested in ‘gigafactories’ to produce the batteries that will be required. What about hydrogen-powered vehicles though? Note that heavy goods vehicles are not part of the target but there will be consultation on when diesel HGVs should no longer be able to be sold;
  • Point five: Tens of billions to be invested in rail, city public transport and buses, cycling and walking. This was already announced in February this year. Two towns will be chosen by April to be ‘all-electric bus towns’. Thousands of miles of segregated cycle lanes and low-traffic neighbourhoods will be created. Active Travel England will be set up to oversee this;
  • Point six: Ships and planes – amounts an order of magnitude lower will be invested in zero and low-emission aircraft and clean maritime technology (£15 million , £15 million and £20 million);
  • Point seven: Energy efficient buildings, particularly new ones. 600,000 heat pumps are to be installed per year by 2028, plus £1 billion for improving energy efficiency of homes and replacing fossil fuel heating;
  • Point eight: Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (note that CCS is now CCUS) – an aim of capturing 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, via four industrial clusters in areas ‘such as’ (ie not definitely, presumably given there are five of them) the North East, the Humber, the North West, Scotland and Wales. Two by the mid 2020s and the other two by 2030;
  • Point nine: The creation of new National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, although no details as to where yet. Investment of £ 5.2 billion in flood defences is also mentioned in this section; and
  • Point ten: Green finance and innovation – there is to be £1 billion invested in a Net Zero Innovation Portfolio focusing on these ten priority areas (that gets a bit recursive with the tenth one!). Commercialising fusion energy technology is mentioned, with reference to STEP, which stands for Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, don’t you know. Tokamak is a Russian acronym for a torus-shaped device involved in fusion research.

There is a ‘look forward’ at the end, which does mention the National Infrastructure Strategy, which will apparently focus on ‘decarbonising our infrastructure networks and levelling up the economy, as well as supporting private finance and accelerating infrastructure deliver through project Speed’. The NIS also has a logo, that looks like a road going past two buildings that look like batteries.

The plan calculates that it will save 180 million tonnes of CO2 by 2032. In 2019 the UK emitted about 350Mt, so that leaves 18 years to save the remaining 170Mt to get to net zero, i.e. that’s only half way there, so although it’s a good start, significant challenges remain.

So there you have it. A huge amount of money being talked about (except when it comes to ships and planes, one might think), and I’m never sure whether it has been announced already or is new. It will certainly be announced again, probably next Wednesday. There’s a lot to do by 2030 in there, which is now just over nine years away. One hopes the National Infrastructure Commission will keep the government on track to deliver all this, but it is definitely the sort of bold series of measures I was hoping for.

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