In this fortnightly blog, ICE's Director of Policy Chris Richards looks at developing policy landscape for infrastructure, what decisions mean, and their implications, so that infrastructure professionals can play their part in shaping the discussion.
Infrastructure Australia outlines new guidance on how to improve infrastructure resilience
Infrastructure Australia has released a new set of resilience guidelines for infrastructure, noting that the events of recent years have brought Australia’s vulnerability to threats such as bushfires, droughts, floods, pandemics and cyber-attacks into sharp focus.
The Advisory Papers, developed in partnership with Infrastructure New South Wales, estimate that, by 2050, the economic cost of natural disasters in Australia will more than double from about AU$18 billion annually to AU$39 billion.
Infrastructure Australia wants infrastructure resilience in project planning and business cases “to become business as usual”. The organisation is required to evaluate business cases for infrastructure projects that receive more than AU$250 million in funding from the federal government and has indicated it may reject proposals that do not effectively incorporate infrastructure resilience.
2020 and 2021 have been the posterchild of weather extremes and has highlighted that the impacts of climate change are very much being felt now. It would be unfair to expect that we can stay ahead of every challenge our infrastructure will face over the coming decades. But we can plan, design, build and retrofit infrastructure to better prepare for disruptions and disasters and make sure we have plans in place to cope for when things do go wrong – these guidelines from Infrastructure Australia provide a strong starting point.
Read more from chair of the UK’s Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, on the importance of considering resilience alongside the net-zero emissions transition.
UK government publishes long-awaited hydrogen strategy
The UK’s new hydrogen strategy provides more detail on how the government will support the development of a domestic low-carbon hydrogen sector – a sector which today is virtually non-existent.
The strategy says that hydrogen will be “critical” for achieving the 2050 net-zero target and could use up to a third of the nation’s energy by then. A ‘twin track’ approach is proposed to support multiple technologies, including ‘green’ electrolytic and ‘blue’ carbon capture-enabled hydrogen production.
The document contains an exploration of how the UK will expand production and create a market for hydrogen-based on domestic supply chains, rather than looking to import hydrogen from abroad, with the government aiming for the UK to be a “global leader on hydrogen” by 2030.
The sector’s growth is expected to be supported through the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme used for the wind sector and other successful renewables – something ICE has previously said should be used for nascent technology that can get us on the path to net zero.
The strategy also confirms that a review will be undertaken to support the development of the necessary network and storage infrastructure for hydrogen.
The long-awaited hydrogen strategy is welcome – hydrogen presents us with an opportunity to repurpose and use existing infrastructure already in place to support a brand new sector, particularly in providing low carbon solutions to hard-to-reach sectors of the economy.
But hydrogen should not be viewed as a silver bullet, and relying on it alone will not solve the net zero challenge. Alongside it, we need to continue to invest in a broad portfolio of renewable energy and energy storage technology while making our existing infrastructure and buildings more efficient. ICE is collaborating with other engineering institutions as part of the National Engineering Policy Centre to explore the most effective role for hydrogen as part of a net zero future.
Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch. You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.