Belfast Telegraph

List of RHI botched green scheme boiler owners to be published - firms warn of job losses

By Jonny Bell

The association representing RHI boiler owners has warned that 160 businesses face hitting the wall and people's jobs are on the line as payment caps on the botched green energy scheme bite.

It comes as the Department of the Economy prepares to release its list of those owners claiming from the scheme. At a court hearing last week, as one owner attempted to keep his name from being published, officials said they planned to release the list today.

It comes after the names of organisations claiming from the scheme were made public in March.

The Renewable Heat Association for Northern Ireland (RHANI) said RHI boiler owners were struggling to keep their heads above water after caps were put on the scheme.

Of the release of names, it said: "The department will not publish any detail about the costs incurred by the recipients, their borrowings, the cost of the fuel, bank charges or any comment about shattering the viability of the business.

"No one will mention that private investment of individuals worth £140m is at risk or the family firms that are now insolvent, the bankruptcies and the repossessions of homes that will take place from this month - far less the wholesale welching on supposedly irrevocable promises and Government-backed guarantees."

RHI was intended to encourage people and businesses to switch to sustainable heating systems in order to lessen reliance on fossil fuels. But a lack of controls meant successful applicants were able to claim more in grants than it cost to run boilers through purchasing wood pellets. The episode has been described as the biggest scandal since devolution was restored - and played a major role in the recent collapse of Stormont.

During last week's hearing, the High Court judge was told no evidence of abuse could be found in the chicken and mushroom farming sectors.

RHANI has said those genuine members of the scheme which sought to use the heating systems as they were intended now face financial ruin. Some firms would have agreed the price of produce based on the knowledge there was a rebate to come from Stormont.

"In sectors where margins are small and cash-flow critical, this is the difference between solvency and insolvency. Businesses will fail because of the retrospective impact of the 2017 emergency amendments.

"This is a Government-backed scheme. It was a safe thing to do to stand personal guarantee or place the business premises, farm, and family home as loan collateral. It is not as if the government would welch on the 20-year guarantee. But they did.

"About 160 small businesses may go to the wall soon. Other businesses have halved their workforce.

"We need to sort out this shambles. Otherwise, people will suffer, loans will be defaulted upon and banks will seize and foreclose on property at a rate not seen since Nama and, to top it all, we will return to burning millions of barrels of oil. Hardest hit are the farmers, but all innocent participants have lost out."

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