Energy, digital communications and transport will be the focus of the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) for the coming year.
The commission issued a call to all interested parties to submit their views and evidence on key issues in its first annual report published today.
The NICW was established in 2018 as a non-statutory body to advise and make recommendations to Welsh Ministers on Wales’ economic and environmental infrastructure needs over the next five to thirty years.
In its first year, the commission has taken an overall view of the current state of Wales’ infrastructure and gained some understanding of how changes in the economy, the environment and technology will demand new forms of infrastructure.
It has identified decarbonisation, connectivity and resilience as the key themes which will run through its work.
The development of the body’s infrastructure plan is in its early stages but the NICW has reached some provisional views for which it now seeks evidence and has identified ten key issues on which it will focus in the coming year. These include:
- On digital communications: the commission’s provisional view is that 4G and 5G mobile broadband may be the lowest cost technology to provide superfast connections to some Welsh households and that a greater proportion of public funds should be allocated to mobile rather than to fixed broadband.
- On energy: the commission seeks further evidence on how to rapidly improve the relationship between Wales’ energy grid and the future growth of renewable energy, including innovations in energy storage, electrical engineering, the planning system, and other government interventions.
- On transport: the commission seeks evidence on the infrastructure barriers to the transition to zero emission road transport and how they can be overcome, especially in rural areas where the market may not provide the solution
By November 2021 the commission will set out a plan for Wales’ infrastructure, which will enable the Welsh Government to develop an affordable strategy for our infrastructure needs and help us have a prosperous future in which all can share.
Speaking ahead of the report’s launch, Interim Chair of the NICW, John Lloyd Jones, OBE, said:
This report sets out our early thinking and identifies priorities for further investigation. But we must stress that this is still early in the process and we will not rush to make recommendations to the Welsh Ministers until we have found compelling evidence for infrastructure solutions.
Commissioners have been eager to engage a wide variety of users and providers of infrastructure to understand their aspirations and concerns for the future. Wales is a diverse country with differing needs. During the year we have visited North, Mid and South Wales to hear about the opportunities and challenges in different parts of the country. We are grateful to the many people who have helped us.
We will produce our first “state of the nation” report by November 2021.
Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James said:
I thank the NICW for its initial analysis of Wales’ future infrastructure needs, and welcome its clear priorities for further investigation.
Developing infrastructure that contributes to growing our economy in a sustainable and responsible way is vital. Having declared a Climate Emergency earlier this year, we need to ensure our new infrastructure is fit for the long term – so that means considering low carbon options. So I am pleased the Commission has set decarbonisation, connectivity and resilience as themes that will permeate its work.
I look forward to receiving its firm recommendations in due course, to which the Welsh Government will formally respond.
The Call for Evidence is open until 27 March 2020.