The British government’s investment pipeline is chock-full of energy and transport projects that together account for more than 85% of its projected capex, according to an Energydesk analysis.
But where the UK’s roads, rails and airports are largely paid for using public money, energy infrastructure investment is exclusively the purview of private enterprise — which means the government doesn’t actually know what projects will get financial backing and what will not.
Instead, the tall blue bar in graph below that represents total energy capex illustrates how much Her Majesty’s Treasury expects big business will spend, encouraged by official incentive programmes (subsidies).
The numbers behind the country’s infrastructure are available for perusal on this spreadsheet, colour-coded especially for you.
Here are four things we’ve learned about infrastructure spending in Britain.
Active money is the only kind that counts
The government’s infrastructure investment plan outlines a lot of spending on energy up to 2020, a lot spent on transport, and only a little on everything else.
But though the graph says that the UK expects a further £150 billion in energy spending in the next five years, all you can really say is for certain is the money active.
Less than a quarter of energy’s giant piece of the pie is actually being put towards developing project, all the rest is predicated on private industry deciding to get involved.
As you can see, transport’s grey bar is around the same size as energy’s, plus there’s another bit: the £15 billion George Osborne recently promised to spend on roads in the next Parliament.
Questions over expensive nuclear and offshore wind
In the energy-only investment pipeline, there are three places in which almost all the money is set to go: offshore wind, nuclear plants Hinkley and Wylfa, and nuclear otherwise.
You could read the government’s huge investment projection as a sign of faith in these up-and-coming energy types.
The offshore wind sector, for instance, had a banner year, according to The Crown Estate, including big-money commitments from Siemens, Vestas and AB Ports.
Likewise UK nuclear, especially the greenlighting of and massive subsidies provided to the giant nuclear reactor set for Hinkley Point.
But reports have surfaced of energy enterprise being turned off expensive offshore wind due uncertainty around the sector post 2020.
And there’s the continuing controversy of Hinkley, from its large subsidies to the criticism of the reactor’s design to the fact that it still doesn’t have any actual financial backing.
The tax payer is behind transport infrastructure
Unlike big brother energy, Britain’s transport infrastructure is still supported by mommy and daddy — that’s tax money from joe public.
You know the big projects, from HS2 and TfL to Heathrow upgrades — and don’t forget Osborne’s roads
Because the money is public rather than private, a lot more of it is active, though the slow build of the fast train will see its overall investment spread out over the next few years.
And there’s the question of London’s airport problem — another Heathrow terminal? Expand Stansted? A new Thames Estuary? A lot of money expected to be spent is still waiting on decisions to be made.
Britain’s biggest investments
The above tree diagram shows 10 of biggest infrastructure commitments in the pipeline, with the size of the square representing the projected total capex.
The blue squares are privately funded, the grey ones paid for with public money, and the purple a mix of the two (though tending to be more public than private).