Belfast Telegraph

RHI: Statement hits out at Ofgem assessors

By Victoria Leonard

The majority of officials at energy regulator Ofgem are admin staff who "have never seen a biomass boiler", according to a witness statement submitted to the RHI Inquiry.

The comments are contained in evidence provided by Alan Hegan of Hegan Biomass Ltd, which was posted to the RHI Inquiry's website yesterday.

Hegan Biomass supplies, installs and maintains biomass boilers and supplied approximately 122 commercial biomass boilers to be accredited under the RHI scheme here.

In his witness statements, Mr Hegan described the management of the RHI scheme as "flawed." He said: "In my opinion, the majority of the assessors within Ofgem are admin staff, they are not familiar with (practical) thermodynamic principles.

"I believe that the majority have never seen a biomass boiler, never mind in an industrial or agricultural setting or having any practical experience with them.

"Applications are vetted based on tick box exercises, as opposed to the merits of the actual application."

Mr Hegan said he believed Ofgem "suffered from DfE (Department for the Economy) interference whilst processing applications in the NI scheme" and described audits as "a total mess".

Regarding the audits, he added: "When DfE pass them onto Ofgem it is clear they are providing incorrect information."

Mr Hegan described the Ofgem IT system as having "major issues" which caused "delays and distress to participants" and said the organisation also suffered from a "high staff turnover level".

In other evidence published yesterday, a former president of the Ulster Farmers' Union said he was urged by former DUP special adviser Dr Andrew Crawford to appeal a decision by Ofgem to remove a damaged boiler from the RHI scheme.

The information was contained in the witness statements of John Gilliland, who stated that he was a former director of Original Heating Limited and Rural Generation Limited, and a partner in Brook Hall Estate.

Mr Gilliland said that on one occasion he met Mr Crawford at the Northern Ireland Environment Link Conference in 2016 after a fire destroyed most of the farm buildings at his family home, Brook Hall estate.

He said Mr Crawford had asked whether any biomass boilers were damaged in the fire and he had responded that Ofgem were no longer going to allow a boiler with badly damaged pipework access to the RHI scheme.

Mr Gilliland said: "Mr Crawford expressed his opinion that this was unfair and that I should appeal Ofgem's decision."

Mr Gilliland said that Rural Generation Ltd was formally wound up on November 2, 2012, due to the collapse of biomass boiler sales.

He added: "Andrew Crawford phoned me on the evening of November 3, 2012, and commiserated with the demise of Rural Generation Limited. He encouraged me to get back up on my feet and said pioneers such as myself would be required to deliver this new policy on renewable heat."

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