The chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has called on utilities and regulators to back the recommendations it has made to government about the investment needed for infrastructure.

Speaking at Utility Week’s Congress event in Birmingham today (10 October) Sir John Armitt stressed that the investment proposals outlined in the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), published earlier this year, are not part of an “unaffordable wish list”.

But he warned with tough decisions there have had to be some “trade-offs” and the assessment will “not suit everyone”.

He also discussed the importance of a resilient system of water supply and the potential need for new reservoirs.

Armitt highlighted leakage as a concern and explained 20 per cent of main supply is lost every day.

“We want to see the industry halve leakage by 2050 with Ofwat agreeing five-yearly commitments from each company and then reporting on the progress,” he said.

“It’s therefore encouraging to see companies including Thames and Southern say that they plan to rise to this challenge.”

He also reiterated the NIC’s plea to the government to back renewables over nuclear.

The NIC has outlined the government should agree support for no more than one nuclear power station beyond Hinkley Point C before 2025.

“We have set a clear target for at least 50 per cent of our electricity to come from sources including wind and solar by 2030.”

The NIC has also looked for alternatives to natural gas.

“For heat in the future we have a choice – it’s either going to be hydrogen or heat pumps it cannot be natural gas,” Armitt said.

He also emphasised the need for the electricity system to be ready for electric vehicles. “We want to see Ofgem playing a key role in this.”

The government has until July 2019 at the latest to respond to the NIA.

Armitt said: “We cannot rest on our laurels – having produced that report we must instead make the case time and time again for its implementation.”

If the recommendations are to become a reality, the NIC needs support from utilities to make it happen, he urged.

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