The ambitious HyNet project, aimed at establishing a hydrogen economy in the UK, is at risk of stalling due to government uncertainty, according to Chris Manson-Whitton, CEO of Progressive Engineering and co-ordinating partner of the HyNet plan.
Manson-Whitton raised concerns about the project being put on hold until late 2025, despite the positive aspects of the Energy Bill in unlocking business models. He emphasized the need for support to keep ongoing projects moving forward and suggested finding intermediary ways to prevent delays.
During the Hydrogen for Life conference in London, Manson-Whitton directed his question to Anne Marie Trevelyan, Minister at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, who represented the government. While Trevelyan acknowledged the fairness of the question, she could not provide an immediate response and pledged to bring it to the attention of Grant Shapps, the Minister of Energy Security and Net Zero.
Manson-Whitton highlighted that HyNet is in the final stages of engineering for its 100 km hydrogen pipeline and is about to enter the consent process, with storage in a similar position. However, the project could face a significant pause of two and a half years if the business models are not developed appropriately. Manson-Whitton emphasized the importance of hydrogen transport as an enabler that can reach a wide range of users and attract various producers, thereby creating an infrastructure that can support multiple industries and break the chicken-and-egg problem.
While the UK government aims to establish a new business model by 2025, Manson-Whitton stressed the need for immediate support and funding to keep projects moving forward. Trevelyan agreed that resolving these issues quickly is the challenge and expressed confidence in Grant Shapps’ ability to drive progress once the energy bill is passed. Private investment will also play a crucial role in developing the hydrogen economy.
Trevelyan mentioned the inclusion of a hydrogen levy in Grant Shapps’ toolkit, indicating that the government is taking steps to ensure the necessary volumes of hydrogen are achieved. However, Bill Esterson, the shadow minister for business and industrial strategy, voiced opposition to hydrogen levies and proposed government investment from the Treasury as the preferred approach.
It remains to be seen how the government will address the concerns raised by Manson-Whitton and whether immediate measures will be taken to avoid potential delays in the HyNet project.