ICE backs public accounts committee’s call for annual progress report to parliament

The government’s plans to expand nuclear, solar and wind power are not credible, according to the UK’s public spending watchdog.

In a report published today, the public accounts committee (PAC) called for annual progress updates to parliament, complaining that current expansion plans relied on technology that was at an early stage.

The PAC criticised the government’s “many separate” plans for achieving its goal of decarbonising the power sector by 2035 and said the lack of a co-ordination was jeopardising the target.

meg hillier

Committee chair Meg Hillier said the government needed to address an “information vacuum” in key areas

It urged the government to establish an overarching delivery plan by the autumn at the latest.

Committee chair Meg Hillier said: “It has now long been understood and accepted that greening our economy is an existential priority, with the government setting itself the target of securing an entirely low-carbon power supply by 2035.

“But without a coherent delivery plan to get there, the government will find it harder to know what decisions it must take, and when, to ensure that it can realistically reach its ambitions.

“There is an information vacuum in key areas – energy efficiency, investment, the cost of the transition to the public – that must be addressed.

“We need an overarching plan charting the way, to provide much-needed confidence to the businesses and consumers who are needed to deliver it.”

Up to £400bn of public and private investment in new generating capacity will be needed by 2037, according to government estimates, but the PAC is unconvinced that the private sector has been given enough clarity to invest, with confidence eroded by changes in direction on policy.

In the inquiry which led to the report, the committee heard that the government’s focus on providing energy bill support to manage high gas prices had distracted it from its longer-term focus on decarbonisation.

Chris Richards, director of policy at the Institution of Civil Engineers, echoed the PAC’s call for coherence and backed its call for yearly progress reports.

“Without a clear plan to address energy needs, the UK risks being left behind as talent and knowledge will be directed to countries where investment and plans are more certain,” he said. “Infrastructure professionals need clarity and certainty to make progress.”