National Infrastructure Commission
Forecasting a changeable outlook
You don’t have to be a trained weather forecaster to note that the weather in the UK is changing. The scientific consensus is that we will see an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events as a result of climate change.
The UK government has legislated for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: achieving this would limit the UK’s contribution, but it will not reverse climate change.
Climate change, and the extreme weather events it brings, will have wide ranging impacts on how we live our lives. One of the aims of energy policy is to make sure that the security of the electricity system is one thing that you don’t have to worry about.
In our assessment of a future low cost low carbon electricity system, the Commission recommended that the government put the UK on the pathway to a highly renewable electricity system. We recommended that the first milestone on this path should be the operation of a system that, by 2030, generates at least half of UK electricity from renewable sources.
The government has started to put the UK on this pathway. It has made a series of announcements, including its intention to reopen funding routes for deployment of onshore wind and solar generation, and setting a target of installing 40GW of offshore wind by 2030. That’s an increase of around 30 GW on top of the UK current 9 GW of offshore wind capacity.
Renewable sources of electricity, such as wind turbines and solar panels, will therefore provide an increasing share of the electricity we use. By their nature these sources of electricity are reliant on the weather.
We need to continue to build our understanding of the impact that weather, and in particular extremes in weather, may have on the operation of such a system. A better understanding of the potential impact will allow those involved in the design and operation of the electricity system to plan in advance and find solutions to potential challenges on the horizon. To do this, data is needed.
Policy makers, operators, academics and others currently work with a range of sophisticated energy models. These models are used to test potential futures for the electricity system. Weather data, in particular data on wind speed, temperature, solar irradiance and humidity, is generally captured within these models. But most often these models rely on observed weather from the past and therefore do not account for the impact of climate change. Additionally, there is a lack of consistency in what constitutes extreme weather.
Last year we asked the Met Office to carry out a review of the current scientific understanding of extreme weather and climate related risks to electricity system design. This review showed that there is significant scope to build resilience through intelligent deployment of a mix of renewables working alongside sources of flexibility such as storage, interconnectors with other countries, and demand side response.
The Met Office also highlighted gaps in understanding and recommended developing data sets of adverse, but plausible, extreme weather scenarios. Importantly, the recommended approach would ensure that the data sets capture projections for the impact of climate change on extreme weather events.
We are now working with the Met Office and the Committee on Climate Change to produce these data sets. We have published the results of the first phase of this work – a feasibility study. The report outlines the methodology the Met Office will use to build these data sets. They will capture plausible past events and reflect national climate projections.
Once produced, the data will be made freely available for use in testing resilience of potential future electricity systems – and indeed, in line with our recent report on the importance of planning resilient infrastructure, we hope the modelling will enable a more consistent approach to resilience stress testing for electricity system design.
The ultimate aim is to contribute positively to the stability and resilience of our electricity supply by providing robust evidence for use by policy makers, to help ensure a reliable power supply whatever the weather.
Latest News from
National Infrastructure Commission
Armitt speech on principles for urban infrastructure08/10/2020 15:43:00
Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, yesterday (08 October 2020) delivered a speech at the launch of the Commission’s report, Principles for effective urban infrastructure.
Cities share good practice for developing local infrastructure strategies07/10/2020 16:15:00
A new toolkit curated by the National Infrastructure Commission is offering advice to cities on developing local infrastructure strategies to underpin improvements in transport, housing and employment prospects.
Armitt: A clear infrastructure policy is more vital than ever07/10/2020 12:33:00
In a comment piece published in the Sunday Telegraph on 4 October 2020, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, reflects on the importance of a National Infrastructure Strategy for setting out the role of infrastructure in economic recovery, meeting the net zero target and ‘levelling up’. An edited version of the article can be found below.
Bridget Rosewell speech to the Westminster Business Forum23/09/2020 16:15:00
National Infrastructure Commissioner Bridget Rosewell yesterday (22 September 2020) addressed a virtual conference organised by the Westminster Business Forum to discuss developing the economy throughout the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc.
Vacancies: Directors of Policy07/09/2020 12:33:00
Are you interested in leading the development of policy recommendations helping to shape the future of the UK’s economic infrastructure?
Commission’s plan to play its part in embedding diversity in infrastructure decision making01/09/2020 16:15:00
The National Infrastructure Commission has set out a roadmap for ensuring its own staff team reflects the diversity of the UK, alongside making inclusion a key factor in analysing future policy questions to help infrastructure better serve the needs of all users.
Falling cost of renewables strengthens case for accelerating deployment12/08/2020 11:15:00
New research carried out for the National Infrastructure Commission shows how sharp falls in the cost of renewable generation mean that Britain should aim for renewables to meet two thirds of electricity needs by 2030 and that this can be delivered at the same overall cost as meeting only half of total demand by that date.
Engaging younger generation with transformation of UK’s infrastructure goal for next YPP24/07/2020 14:10:00
The ten new members of the National Infrastructure Commission Young Professionals Panel meet for the first time today with a remit to build a stronger voice for younger infrastructure creators and users in the Commission’s work, at a time of increased focus on infrastructure as a key engine of economic recovery.
Broad view on rail benefits will help assess rail options for North and Midlands, says Commission16/07/2020 11:15:00
Decisions on future rail investment in the North and Midlands should consider factors that capture the wide range of benefits that rail transport into dense cities and towns can bring, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.