Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Farmers' Union launches high court action challenging end to wind power subsidies

The Ulster Farmers' Union and a Belfast renewable energy firm say they have begun legal action over a Government proposal to end a wind turbine grant scheme early.

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell came under fire earlier this year, after he announced plans to close subsidies to new onshore wind projects from next spring.

Now, the UFU and Simple Power have lodged papers with the High Court in Belfast seeking leave for a Judicial Review the consultation proposals.

Mr Bell has proposed to end the subsidies by April 2016. But he'd previously said he would maintain the that system until 2017.

The organisations behind the planned action said it focuses on “DETI’s handling of the consultation process and follows substantial industry-wide complaints about the impact the proposals will have on farmers and businesses across Northern Ireland, many of whom have spent time and money developing farm based wind energy projects” with the understanding the scheme would continue to April 2017.

In response, Jonathan Bell said: “It has always been my desire to bring the Northern Ireland renewables obligation to a controlled and managed end, ever conscious of the need to strike a balance between maximising the amount of megawatts that can be achieved and the cost to consumers.

“With this in mind I consulted on aligning with the Department of Energy &

Climate Change policy (DECC), having successfully secured a later eligibility date for projects connecting to cluster connections.”

And he said while the “industry needs clarity and I had hoped to publish the formal government response before now.

“I continue to engage with DECC to secure the best outcome for Northern Ireland and will issue the consultation response as soon as possible.”

Last month, UFU president Ian Marshall said the union was "hugely disappointed" at the way the issue had been handled by the DETI, following a meeting with the minister.

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