Infrastructure systems – including those that manage transportation, telecommunications, energy, water and waste management – have come into being in advanced economies in the centuries since industrialisation. Over time, infrastructure becomes locked in to the way we live. For example, low-density, multi-centred urban development (as in Los Angeles) has locked in the automobile as the preferred mode of transport.
Infrastructure’s legacy and its role in resource consumption and pollution make it a focal point for decision-making about sustainability. Reducing fossil-fuel dependency and CO2 emissions from the energy sector requires a big shift in the ways in which electricity is generated, to incorporate much larger contributions from nuclear and renewable energy. This transition will have to be synchronised with modifications to the transmission network to enable efficient use of varied and variable supply technologies and patterns of demand.