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Green energy: Bridgend council pulls £6.5m HyBont funding

Hydrogen plant artists impression
The plant is planned for Brynmenyn Industrial Estate

A £31m green energy scheme has had millions of pounds pulled from the project by a council that says it can no longer afford it.

HyBont aims to create green hydrogen for local authority vehicles, including bin lorries and buses.

But Bridgend council's cabinet said it could no longer afford to provide £6.5m towards the project.

Developer, Japanese firm Marubeni Europower, said it was still committed to the scheme.

HyBont was seen as a prototype, with hopes of rolling out similar plants elsewhere.

The company has been talking to the Welsh government since 2021 about bringing its project to Wales.

This led to a memorandum of understanding being signed with Bridgend council last year after a site on the Brynmenyn Industrial Estate near Bryncethin was chosen.

It would use power from a nearby solar farm to generate green fuel for council vehicles and heating for schools and a leisure centre via a 0.6-mile (1.2km) hydrogen pipeline.

The innovative aspect of the plant is its use of software to try and match hydrogen demand to times when it is cheapest to produce.

At the time, the council said it hoped the project could "act as a trailblazer", while the plans were also hailed by Climate Change Minister Julie James as a step towards Wales' net zero goals.

Hydrogen tank artist impression
The company behind the scheme says it is still committed to the project, despite the setback

However, on Tuesday council cabinet members decided to withdraw financial support after a report said the authority would be expected to contribute about £6.5m in the coming years.

But with the council "having predicted a multi-million pound deficit for 2024-25 and faced with significant new budget pressures", officials advised council leaders to pull out.

Corporate director for communities, Janine Nightingale, told the meeting it was "difficult decision" and said the council was "hugely committed" to its own net zero strategy.

But she said, when initially approached by Welsh government, "it was not clear at that point the substantial revenue and capital implications that would need to be invested" by the council.

Cabinet members voted to continue talking with partners to "identify an alternative route forward" with the company.

The scheme faces another hurdle after its planning application prompted significant opposition, with fears raised over the plant's proximity to homes and businesses.

This means an extraordinary meeting of the planning committee will be needed to discuss the application, with residents given a chance to air their concerns.

The council has also requested that the Welsh government take over the final decision for granting planning permission or not.

Marubeni Europower said: "The commitment from the cabinet to hold additional discussions with Welsh government and other partners to explore how they can further support HyBont is extremely welcome and, despite the council no longer being in a financial position to invest, is a clear endorsement for the project.

"We are already in discussions with other partners on future funding and are absolutely committed to making the HyBont project a reality, bringing economic benefits to the local community, creating jobs and promoting sustainable growth in the region."

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