Northern Ireland news

Ofgem will not say if firms on RHI list have had payments suspended

Young tree and biomass- renewable energy.
Gareth McKeown

ENERGY regulator Ofgem will not disclose if any of the RHI claimants named last week have had their payments suspended.

The Department for the Economy published a list of around 400 companies and other organisations who have availed of the botched green energy scheme and the amounts they have received.

A separate list of those claiming under their own names is due to be released within "the next few weeks", according to the department.

The highest claimant in last week's figures was Co Tyrone poultry company Paul Hobson Ltd, which received almost £660,000 in subsidies for 13 boilers up to this month.

Company director Paul Hobson told the News Letter that his site was audited by Ofgem in November 2015 and given a clean bill of health.

The regulator has previously said that of 63 installations it inspected, subsidy payments had been suspended in 33 cases, for a number of reasons including technical issues.

However, Ofgem would not reveal whether any of these featured on last week's list.

"We have conducted audits of 46 installations during 2016/17 to date and our audit programme, including unannounced audits, is ongoing," a spokesman said.

"We don't comment on individual cases, but can confirm that we take compliance with scheme rules seriously. We consider each case carefully and take appropriate actions in line with the RHI regulations."

In addition to reviews carried out by Ofgem, the Department for the Economy commissioned an independent review last year into allegations relating to abuse of the non-domestic RHI scheme.

It was carried out by by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and accounted for a fifth of all subsidy payments.

The review conducted 80 site visits, comprising 295 installations, with 53 per cent found to be "contrary to the intention or spirit of the scheme”.

A programme of inspections of all 1,200 RHI sites went out to tender almost two weeks ago, with the closing date for applications April 6.

The work, to be carried out on behalf of the Department for the Economy, is expected to take eight months and the unannounced inspections are to include auditing as well as examination of boilers.

The inspections are set to begin in May with a final report expected by December.

The Renewable Heat Association of Northern Ireland, representing boiler installers, has appealed to the public not to assume that any of those named on lists have acted improperly.

It said claimants entered the scheme legitimately and that it was designed and promoted by the Stormont government.

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