Northern Ireland news

RHI Inquiry: Businessman spotted flaws in scheme 'within days'

An inquiry into the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme is ongoing. Picture by Mal McCann

A BUSINESSMAN whose companies sold and installed biomass heating systems said it took him just days to spot flaws in the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

Giving evidence to the RHI inquiry yesterday, Brian Hood rejected a claim from the Department for the Economy that there was a "conspiracy of silence" in the biomass industry about the flaws.

He said within days of the scheme being launched in 2012 he worked out that substantial subsidies could be achieved.

Mr Hood said he printed hundreds of promotional leaflets telling potential customers that every £1,000 fuel spend would result in an RHI income of £1,475.

And he even ran a social media campaign promoting "20 years of free heat".

Mr Hood said civil servants were simply trying to shift the blame for deficiencies in the scheme which is set to cost taxpayers up to £490 million.

"At the end of the day, if the department don't find other people to blame, then all the blame is going to land on officials that got it wrong," he said.

The head of another biomass installation company also insisted there was no conspiracy of silence in the industry.

Neil Elliott, who ran a Co Fermanagh-based company called Future Renewables Ltd, described the rush to join the scheme before it closed in February 2016 as a "feeding frenzy".

He said he had attended almost 60 events run by the Department of Agriculture to promote the project to farmers.

Mr Elliott said just before the scheme was to close, he was due to have boilers worth £200,000 delivered from Austria.

A two-week extension to the scheme was later agreed, he said.

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