Belfast Telegraph

Department urged to reconsider 'flawed' cuts to RHI scheme payments

The RHI scheme was deeply flawed.
The RHI scheme was deeply flawed.

A group representing RHI boiler owners has appealed to the Department for the Economy (DfE) to delay planned cuts to payments.

In a letter, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, Renewable Heat Association for Northern Ireland (RHANI) founder and director Tom Forgrave appealed to the DfE to halt the cuts "even at this 11th hour" stage.

Mr Forgrave argued that the calculations used to decide the cuts were "fatally flawed".

Legalisation attempting to cut payments for those on the botched green energy scheme is currently making its way through Westminster.

Some on the scheme could see their annual payments reduced from £13,000 to £2,000.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster has launched a short inquiry into the new payments structure.

RHANI has rejected claims from DfE officials that boiler owners would not stop using wood pellets because they were cheaper than fossil fuels.

The group has conducted its own research and claimed that liquid petroleum gas would be cheaper and more efficient to burn than the pellets, especially given the costs associated with biomass fuels.

In the letter, Mr Forgrave said that firms would switch back to gas if the cuts go ahead, defeating the purpose of the RHI scheme in the first place.

"I would urge you that even at this 11th hour to press the pause button on this 2019 legislation as it is based on misinformed assumptions and needs further investigation before the punitive legislation is enacted," he wrote.

Fears: Tom Forgrave
Fears: Tom Forgrave

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme landed Stormont with an overspend bill once projected to be almost £500 million.

RHI was supposed to incentivise farmers and other business owners to switch to wood pellet burning boilers by offering them a subsidy to purchase the fuel.

Catastrophic errors at government level meant subsidy levels were set higher than it actually cost to buy the pellets, so applicants were effectively able to make a profit on public money by burning boilers without limits.

Tariffs were then introduced in an attempt to stop the payments spiralling out of control.

An inquiry into the scandal, chaired by Sir Patrick Coghlin, is set to be published later this year.

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