Northern Ireland

Conor Murphy submits paper on RHI closure to Stormont executive

Ministers must agree on cross-cutting measure before it can be signed off

Subsidies were higher than fuel costs and RHI was closed to new entrants in 2016
Minister Conor Murphy hopes to fulfil a pledge to close down the RHI scheme

The Stormont executive is preparing to consider proposals for the long-awaited closure of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Ahead of stepping down, Economy Minister Conor Murphy confirmed that he has provided a paper on the scheme’s closure to executive colleagues, who must agree on what is a cross-cutting measure before it can be signed-off.

The Irish News revealed last month that officials briefed MLAs in closed session on shutting down the botched scheme that triggered a three-year collapse of the devolved institutions.

However, the body representing hundreds of boiler owners in the RHI scheme has warned that it will challenge any move that does not meet its expectations in the courts.

Conor Murphy
Economy Minister Conor Murphy. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY

Responding to a question from Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken, Mr Murphy cited 2020′s New Decade New Approach deal, which stated: “RHI will be closed down and replaced by a scheme that effectively cuts carbon emissions.”

The Sinn Féin minister said agreement between ministers would enable the Treasury to proceed on how AME (annually managed expenditure) funding “could be used more effectively in the future”.

Mr Murphy’s department and Invest NI on Wednesday launched a new £20m fund that will offer support to businesses to buy energy efficient equipment.

But Mr Aiken cast doubt over the ability of Department for the Economy and Invest NI to deliver the scheme.

The South Antrim representative said the record of both in relation to oversight of RHI, coupled with recent revelations around general civil service governance, raised “questions around competence”.

The former UUP leader said he was unable to say whether he supported closure of the RHI scheme due to a “distinct lack of clear information”.

Invest NI said it had a “strong track record of offering a suite of energy and resource efficiency support”.

DfE has also been approached for comment.