Scandal-hit German transport ministry 'disbands hydrogen department', saying some programmes 'cannot be continued'



Germany’s Ministry of Transport (BMDV) has reportedly disbanded its entire hydrogen unit, just months after minister Volker Wissing suspended all hydrogen-related funding while the ministry investigates a departmental nepotism scandal that saw a senior civil servant sacked.


Department 25, which co-ordinated the ministry’s hydrogen transport and fuel cells policy, was scrapped as part of a wider ministry shake-up, according to reports in German daily newspaper Tagesspiegel.


The ministry says that the re-organisation was prompted by last year’s ruling from Germany’s constitutional court that banned the government from using €60bn ($65bn) of unused Covid cash for its Climate and Transformation Fund (KTF).


The ruling means that “some programmes cannot be continued as desired”, a spokesperson for BMDV told the newspaper — without referring to the nepotism scandal which saw Department 25’s head Karl Bonhoff dismissed, after it emerged that he may have ensured a €1.4m government grant went to an H2 mobility project run by a close friend.


Funding for hydrogen mobility projects is currently suspended while the ministry’s head civil servant, Stefan Schorr, investigates the scandal, in addition to four other individual grants awarded by the ministry, totalling €25.9m.


Hydrogen Insight asked BMDV whether the scandal had any bearing on the decision to jettison the hydrogen transport and fuel cells department, but it had not responded at the time of publication.


The funding freeze has led to speculation that BMDV is quietly winding down its hydrogen programme, but the ministry said on Friday that work on hydrogen will continue, albeit without a dedicated department.


Employees from Department 25 will “continue to be deployed for hydrogen topics in other departments with a technical focus”, BMDV told the newspaper. “Hydrogen as an energy source for climate-neutral mobility remains of great importance to us.”


However, the suspension of hydrogen-related grants suggests that H2 mobility policy execution is likely to be paused for the foreseeable future.


The ongoing €1.4bn National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology, which provides funding for expansion of public H2 refuelling stations and the production of their hydrogen, is likely to be affected, as well as smaller programmes for rail and aviation.


Earlier this month, industry representatives, including the German Hydrogen Association, boilermaker Bosch and truck manufacturer Daimler, complained that the funding freeze is “carelessly and unnecessarily” gambling away “Germany's position as a leading market for hydrogen applications, and thereby enormously weakens the entire business case”.


Source: HydrogenInsight


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