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RHI boiler owners to take legal fight for payments for next 20 years

Renewable Heating Incentive scheme participants have lodged court papers to fight for payments they were guaranteed from the scheme for the next 20 years.

Action Renewables, which represents boiler owners, said it was taking a case against the Department of the Economy as its 500 members had contracts and they were prepared to fight for them to be "honoured".

It comes as Minister Simon Hamilton outlined measures to cut the tariff which would see a projected £490million overspend reduced.

Action Renewables managing director Michael Doran - who does not have an RHI boiler - said the group's members stood to lose huge sums of money.

He told the BBC Stephen Nolan show: "People joined this scheme on the understanding it was a 20-year contract and two years into the contract, the government has torn that up.

"Some of our participants have invested over £100m in the NI economy and they stand to lose a substantial part of that, if the tariffs are reduced.

"From the very start we have been looking for four things.

"One is to stop the names of those involved published; second technical and business audits, the third one is to carry out a proper economic assessment which we have started and fourth that there is a good code of practise for those in the scheme."

He added: "We are not taking advantage of anything. If the court decides what we are doing is improper and department acted right then that order will be upheld.

"But what we are saying is the government acted illegally. Basically people were contracted into it on the basis it was a 20-year contract. If you signed a mortgage and bank came back two years into it to say 'sorry we made the mistake and we will increase payments by three,' would you be happy with that?"

Mr Doran said the hearing would be heard on Monday and he expected it to go on for months.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: “I am aware of the legal challenge to the 2017 Renewable Heat Incentive Regulations. As I outlined to the Assembly on the 24 January 2017, these regulations are the vital first step in radically reducing the burden of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme on the Northern Ireland Budget.

"The department will be robustly defending its actions in introducing these essential cost saving regulations."

A temporary ban is in place of naming those on the RHI scheme.

The scheme was set up by Arlene Foster who was the then Enterprise Minister. Unlike a scheme in England there were no caps which meant some ran boilers full time making large profits from the scheme.

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