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Moy Park and agricultural colleges involved in botched RHI scheme

By Chris McCullough

Northern Ireland's agricultural colleges and a chicken processor have revealed they are participating in the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

Stormont's RHI was supposed to increase the use of eco-friendly boilers - but it ended up paying significantly more than the price of fuel, enabling applicants to "burn to earn" by generating free heat and making a profit as they did it. It also caused political chaos after the £400m overspend on subsidies was revealed.

Claims of widespread abuse include a farmer allegedly set to pocket around £1m in the next two decades for heating an empty shed.

One of Northern Ireland's biggest employers, Moy Park, has confirmed its participation in the scheme. There is no suggestion it or the agricultural colleges have acted improperly.

Up to six million people were expected to tuck in to a Moy Park turkey this Christmas.

The firm said: "We have been advocating the use of hot water heating systems across our poultry production in England and Northern Ireland for many years.

"These systems produce a dry heat, which creates a healthy environment for the chickens.

"We made two investments in hot water heating, one through the RHI scheme in Great Britain as part of an energy supply contract arrangement and one in Northern Ireland, where we invested in four 199KW boilers under the revised RHI scheme which is tiered and capped, similar to the scheme in GB."

A total of nine biomass boilers, six of which are eligible under the RHI scheme, have been installed at the three College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) campuses controlled by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Four of the eligible boilers are installed at Loughry campus and one each at Greenmount and Enniskillen.

A DAERA spokesman said: "As part of Government's drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, CAFRE has progressively installed biomass boilers as a key instrument in working towards these targets.

"It has installed nine biomass boilers with six of these eligible for the RHI scheme. All biomass boilers were designed to both ensure optimum heat delivery to the facility combined with efficiency in greenhouse gas reduction."

It has been reported that the six boilers the department claims for under RHI generated an income in the last quarter of almost £2,000.

The department spokesman said: "All funds raised by the department are allocated towards the delivery of DAERA public services."

Set up in November 2012, the green scheme was an attempt by the Executive to help increase the use of heat from renewable sources.

RHI offered a financial incentive for businesses and other non-domestic users to install renewable heat systems. Those systems included biomass boilers, mostly burning wood pellets, as well as solar thermal and heat pumps.

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