BACK TO THE FUTURE… OF INFRASTRUCTURE
In his 1977 novel The Gasp, Romain Gary already raises the issue of access to a cleaner source of energy. Gary imagines nothing less than recovering the souls of the deceased as fuel for machines, leaving humanity faced with the question of what it is willing to accept morally to pursue its growth and maintain its lifestyle. And Gary concludes: ‘The paradox of science is that there is only one response to these misdeeds and perils; even more science.’
Driven by the broad awareness of environmental challenges, the world of infrastructure is experiencing multiple revolutions and now finds itself in the spotlight on both the political and economic stages. From being the poor relation in terms of investment 25 years ago, infrastructure is now the focus of many expectations.
We see three major challenges to be met:
• The speed of deployment of a realistic decarbonised energy mix, adapted to local constraints, in which nuclear plays an important role as a primary source where geographically possible. The myriad new promising projects, covering the whole value chain from production to storage and distribution, will find specialised funds revising their investment scopes. Cooperation between political decision-makers and public and private actors will also be a determining factor to accelerate decarbonisation.
• The adaptation of distribution networks (hydrogen and electric) must go hand-in-hand with the adaptation (conversion) or the production of rolling stock in the automotive, railway and later aeronautical industries. Manufacturers and network managers must better cooperate to avoid the mutual wait-and-see attitudes that delay the deployment of solutions.
• The volume of projects necessary and the cash piles available mean that lenders need to rethink their financing execution processes to make them faster and smoother.
We have not forgotten the importance of waste treatment, water treatment and telecommunication networks. These critical sectors are facing their own technological challenges, but they are highly dependent on the quality of energies that they can consume or on the transport networks made available to them.
The world of infrastructure has never needed innovation more!