Government's progress over the past year on infrastructure policy, funding and delivery has been 'mixed', the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) Infrastructure Progress Review (the Review) reported last week. While some areas have seen 'some progress', in others progress has stalled or even slipped into reverse. We highlight some of the Report's key findings below.

Net zero

For most sectors decarbonised secure energy will involve a switch to electricity but a deployment of new technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage will also be required. Generally, policy progress in this space has been too limited, too slow and in some cases hampered by policy uncertainty. Major changes to energy infrastructure are required to achieve the 2035 goal of decarbonised electricity generation. More specifically:

  • The higher maximum strike price for offshore wind in the next Contracts for Difference auction, should avoid a repeat of the 2023 auction's failure to secure a single offshore wind project. The Contracts for Difference model remains the best way to bring forward renewable capacity.
  • Large onshore wind schemes should also be returned to the UK's infrastructure project system.
  • The National Energy System Operator's strategic spatial energy plan should remove the friction caused by insufficient transmission capacity. But full and speedy implementation of the plan is required.
  • Buildings decarbonisation is the single biggest challenge in the transition to net zero. Government needs to step up its energy efficiency and heat ambition. The transition to electrified heating, and mostly through heat pump deployment, is, in the NIC's view the only viable option for decarbonising buildings at scale, but this requires a comprehensive strategy. The government is not on track to meet its target for heat pump roll out (600,000 heat pumps installations per year by 2028) and an eleventh-hour delay to the implementation of the Clean Heat Market Mechanism (which places an obligation on manufacturers of fossil fuel heating appliances also to sell a specified number of heat pumps) set policy into reverse and caused uncertainty.
  • There is no policy case for providing support for hydrogen heating and the government should make the policy decision to rule out support now rather than kicking the can down the road to 2026. Continuing uncertainty around the role of hydrogen in home heating is slowing progress in this area.
  • 'More ambition and faster deployment' is required for new pipeline networks for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, and for supporting engineered greenhouse gas removal in order to meet 2035 requirements.


Funding of improved transport connectivity has taken some steps forward, but economic growth in major cities depends on improved and integrated local and interurban transport, and more work is required here. More specifically:

  • Devolution arrangements for local transport networks have been extended and deepened in England. The five-year City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements have secured significant additional and flexible funding for mayoral combined authorities, but Transport for London and authorities outwith the mayoral combined authorities also need five-year devolved transport settlements.
  • The cancellation of the second leg of High Speed 2 without putting in place a concrete long-term plan for improving connectivity, capacity and reliability of the interurban transport network in the North and Midlands creates uncertainty which will hinder economic growth in affected regions. While funding has been rerouted to other projects including rail enhancements in the North and Midlands, key corridors, including links from Birmingham to Manchester and the North West, will continue to be poorly served. As part of an integrated interurban transport strategy government needs a new long-term plan for rail to support stronger economies in the North and Midland and redress regional disparities.
  • The pandemic and inflationary cost pressures have delayed implementation of the second Road Investment Strategy. The government should publish its delayed third Road Investment Strategy as soon as possible to clarify which earmarked projects are to be pushed back five years to the fourth Road investment Strategy and to provide certainty to industry, developers and local authorities.
  • Positively, electric vehicle charging point rollout is on track currently to meet the goal of 300,000 charge points by 2030, but charging point installations need to continue to grow at an annual rate of 30%. This does appear to be an area where progress is not only on track, but where it has picked up substantially in the Review period (see our 2023 blog on the previous NIC review which noted slow and inadequate performance in this area).

Environment and resilience

The key message in this space is that things are not happening fast enough. Efforts to put in place policy, funding and delivery frameworks to improve the environment and make the country more resilient to climate change, particularly flooding, have been too slow. More specifically:

  • Recycling rates 'continue to stagnate' and waste emissions are still too high due to delays in key policies. Just how government's collection and packaging reforms will be delivered is unclear, as are the funding arrangements for local authorities involved in implementation of the reforms.
  • Water pollution levels remain unacceptably high, although the government's £60 billion Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which sets clear and specific targets to work towards eliminating the harm from storm overflows, addresses one aspect of the water pollution problem.
  • New water resource infrastructure (including reservoirs) should be enabled and action taken to address water leakage from pipes and reduce consumer water demands to lessen the risk of severe drought. Water consumption is not falling fast enough to hit government targets.
  • Progress on resilience, including on flood risk management infrastructure, is slow with resilience standards only planned for delivery in 2030.
  • Funding for flooding, including flooding from rivers and the sea and from surface water, is not being strategically directed.
  • Positive steps have been taken to require smaller scale infrastructure projects to achieve a minimum 10% of biodiversity net gain and the intention is for this to be rolled out to nationally significant projects in 2025.


Speed of good policy decision-making and implementation is central to the key messages in the Report outlined above. The government needs to accelerate infrastructure planning and delivery to catch up on disruption caused by external factors such as Covid and, more recently, the cost-of-living crisis.

Policy stability is also essential, as highlighted by the last-minute changes to heat policy affecting the installation of heat pumps and the cancellation of the second leg of High Speed 2, impacting the speed of net zero transition and regional growth respectively.

Ensuring speed and stability of policy making and implementation is, of course, never straight forward when each are bound to the political cycle. The NIC is clearly very alive to this, and the Review stresses the importance to investors of the certainty that speedier and more settled projects will deliver. The Review identifies that spending – currently averaging combined public and private investment of £55 billion per year – to close the UK infrastructure gap will need to rise to between £70 to £80 billion per year in the 2030s. Certainty is needed to make infrastructure "bankable". That certainty, in our view, requires clear and settled support mechanisms for appropriate project-financed solutions for infrastructure. Without that certainty, investors may increasingly look elsewhere to jurisdictions where more settled projects pipelines already exist.


Ben Powell

Legal Director

Lindsay Lee

Senior Associate