UFU warn over plan to scrap wind turbine aid
Farmers have warned that controversial government plans to shut down a wind turbine grant scheme early could face a legal challenge.
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has come under fire after he announced proposals to close subsidies to new onshore wind projects from next spring.
Now the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) has said it may take legal action over the handling of the plans to close the Northern Ireland renewable obligation certificates support mechanism for small-scale turbines.
After a meeting with the minister, UFU president Ian Marshall said the union was "hugely disappointed" at the way the issue had been handled by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
He said that despite promising earlier this year to maintain support for new farm-based small-scale wind projects until 2017, in September the minister announced the immediate closure of the scheme to new projects, unless they meet strict eligibility criteria.
"This has left many farmers and small businesses in a terrible situation where they have invested thousands of pounds with the legitimate expectation of delivering projects before March 2017," Mr Marshall added.
A DETI spokesperson said: "DETI issued a consultation on closure which ended on October 14, and the Minister is considering the responses. It has been necessary to act in light of the concerns for DECC and in the Assembly about the costs of onshore wind to consumers.
"The minister has acted throughout with the aim of securing the best outcome for Northern Ireland, avoiding excessive costs to consumers while obtaining the maximum feasible amount of installed onshore wind capacity."