HyNet is at risk of stalling, a company official has warned, amid government uncertainty.
Chris Manson-Whitton, CEO of Progressive Engineering, raised the prospect of the ambitious project stalling until late 2025. Progressive is the architect and co-ordinating partner of the HyNet plan.
Speaking at the Hydrogen for Life conference, in London this week, said the Energy Bill, was “brilliant” in that it would unlock “business models by 2025, but what about projects that are already in flight?”
Such plans, he warned, are “about to pause for two and a half years to wait for the end of 2025”.
Manson-Whitton targeted his question at Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office Minister Anne Marie Trevelyan, representing the government at the conference.
The Progressive Energy CEO asked for ways to “unlock intermediary ways to keep those projects moving forward”.
Trevelyan said the question was “fair” but could not provide a response. “I’ll take that back to [Minister of Energy Security and Net Zero] Grant Shapps.”
HyNet is reaching the end of engineering on its 100 km hydrogen pipeline and about to go into the consent process, Manson-Whitton said, with storage in a similar position.
The project could face a two and a half year pause, “if we don’t get the business models right”, Manson-Whitton said. “Hydrogen transport is a huge enabler, you can reach a wide range of users, while users can know there’s a variety of producers. For the government and UK, that infrastructure will crowd in industries. It breaks that chicken-and-egg problem.”
The Progressive CEO said the UK government was doing well to get a new business model by 2025, but that there was a need for support now. “Let’s keep them going, provide some funding, to enable things to keep moving.”
The FCDO minister went on to say that in 10 years time, all these questions will have been resolved. “Getting through that as quickly as possible” is the challenge. “In [Shapps] there is someone who is a man always in a hurry. Once the energy bill is through that’s an enormous piece of legislation and we will have a series of tools that will help.”
Private investment will play a key part in creating a new hydrogen economy, she acknowledged.
“We want to be at the forefront of enabling, through legislation, through financial support. We want to get our own hydrogen sector up and running. I’m conscious that, for business, ideas can’t get through the board unless government is going in the right direction.”
Trevelyan, a self confessed hydrogen fan, noted that a hydrogen levy would be part of the plan.
“It’s absolutely part of the planning part of Grant Shapps’ tool kit”. The government is taking action, she said, “to get the volumes we need”.
Speaking at the same event, shadow minister for business and industrial strategy Bill Esterson spoke against hydrogen levies. “The right way forward is for government investment from Treasury. That’s the approach we will take.”