Belfast Telegraph

Temporary RHI cost-cutting measure to be extended for another year

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Regulations put in place temporarily to cut the amount of money paid out under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme are set to be extended for another year.

The Department for the Economy has said that it now intends to keep the 2017 Regulations, currently set to run until the start of April next year, in place until the end of March 2019.

Under the temporary rules the tariffs paid out to those using the biomass boilers will reduce once the boilers have been used for 1,314 hours in a year.

The restriction on payments is an attempt to deal with the projected £490m overspend incurred by the scheme which initially allowed recipients to earn more money the more fuel they burned.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Department says this is to "ensure that compensation remains more closely in line with the original intention of the Scheme and that expenditure continues to be brought back into line with the budget".

"The 2017 regulations were never intended to settle the long-term tariff arrangement for the boilers in question but were intended as a temporary measure to allow long-term arrangements to be designed and introduced," it said.

These regulations were approved by MLAs prior to the Executive collapsing in January.

A legal challenge against the regulations has been taken by Renewable Heat Association, a group that represents boiler owners claiming under the scheme, and a court hearing is due to take place at the start of October.

The Department has said that it must wait for the result of this legal case before putting long-term plans in place.

A lack of time between the conclusion of this legal action and the end date for the 2017 regulations has been cited as a reason for extended the cost-cutting measures for another year.

In a statement, the executive chair of the Renewable Heat Association Andrew Trimble said: "The Northern Ireland Assembly, the people of Northern Ireland and in particular the Scheme participants, were assured that the 2017 Regulations were for a limited period."

He added that the Renewable Heat Association's website and email system had received contact from representatives of churches, charities, and companies that wanted to join the group.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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