DUP's Ian Paisley backs RHI owners' bid to block payment cuts
A DUP MP has said proposed tariff cuts to the Renewable Heat Incentive are "grossly unfair" and pledged to lobby the UK Government on behalf of participants in Northern Ireland.
Ian Paisley's comments come after the Department for the Economy (DfE) proposed severe tariff cuts for boilers operating under the botched green energy scheme.
The cash-for-ash scandal brought down Stormont in January 2017 due to the DUP's handling of RHI, where costs spun out of control due to overly generous tariffs.
The Renewable Heat Association Northern Ireland (RHANI) yesterday served an injunction on Secretary of State Karen Bradley in a bid to stop her fast-tracking legislation in Parliament tomorrow to reduce the tariffs.
The legislation is necessary to cut tariffs to ensure the continuation of the scheme while capping costs.
It is understood RHANI has been invited to a meeting with senior officials in the Secretary of State's office. It has requested that senior officials from the lending banks should also attended.
The proposed new tariffs for the most common type of boiler on the scheme would drop from around £13,000 to £2,000 a year, leading to fears it could put many farmers out of business.
Mr Paisley said many RHI owners feel that they have been "taken advantage of".
"I certainly believe that the current regime as outlined and the current proposals in Parliament are grossly unfair," he added.
"The Government has a responsibility to listen carefully to the points that are being made.
"They (RHANI) are perfectly entitled to take legal action and that would affect what Parliament does in the interim, so I can understand why they are taking that action.
"My view is that these proposals to cut the tariffs have been bounced on them and bounced on everyone. The cut is incredibly severe, not in line with what has happened in the Republic of Ireland or in the rest of the UK.
"Why should Northern Ireland people, because of the history of RHI, be treated differently from how the RHI works elsewhere?"
He said the DUP had a series of meetings with officials yesterday and will have further meetings today in advance of the Government bringing forward the legislation.
He added: "We will continue to make the case for what is fair treatment of RHI users. These are genuine users, people who have followed all of the guidelines, did everything by the book and are now being punished and punished wrongfully."
The Ulster Farmers' Union met with DfE last week to raise concerns that proposed tariff cuts could "decimate" businesses and cause "permanent damage" to the farming sector.
Users in the Republic and Britain receive around £20,000 per boiler each year, whereas the proposed plans for here will see RHI users receive just £2,000.
Local poultry producer Tom Forgrave said yesterday the cuts would be ruinous for many businesses who joined the scheme in good faith.
He wrote: "When the proposed tariffs come into effect in April 2019, the RHI payments in Northern Ireland will be slashed to £2,000 per year, but all our current running costs and bank repayments remain the same.
"The fact that the Renewable Heat scheme has become so interwoven with our overall business means that our entire business is now in jeopardy and facing ruin."
RHI led to the resignation of then Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness when it became clear the scheme exposed the taxpayer to a huge overspend of £460 milloin by paying out more in subsidies than it cost to buy fuel.
Sinn Fein had called for the resignation of then First Minister Arlene Foster, who was the Enterprise Minister who signed off on the disastrous scheme in 2012.
The scandal led to a public inquiry, which is expected to publish its report later this year.