Northern Ireland news

Wind turbine audit report 'not fit for purpose'

RenewableNI says the audit office's report into the green energy sector is 'not fit for purpose'. Picture by Mal McCann

THE group representing the north's renewable energy sector has lodged a formal complaint against the audit office that queries figures cited in a recent report highlighting the subsidies paid to the owners of single wind turbines .

RenewableNI, which is headed by former Green Party leader Steven Agnew, says the Northern Ireland Audit Office's (NIAO) ‘Generating Electricity From Renewable Energy’ report is is "not fit for purpose".

It says the spending watchdog based its calculations on generous returns for wind turbine owners on a sole turbine not connected to the grid.

Mr Agnew said last month's report into the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO), which identified "excessive" subsidies for single turbine owners funded through electricity bills, should be "disregarded".

 

"The quality and methodology of research and analysis used to calculate the rate of return for investment in small scale wind projects is deeply flawed," he said.

 

He said his members "do not recognise the cost assumption figures used in the report" and that the audit office had "undermined the significant contribution of the small scale renewables sector to the economy and the environment".

Mr Agnew said RenewablesNI had commissioned an accountancy firm to produce an "independent audit based on accurate data" that would published within weeks.

The audit office confirmed that it has received correspondence from RenewableNI and has offered to meet the industry group. However, the spending watchdog, whose 2016 report into Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) outlined the lavish subsidies paid to biomass boiler owners, said it "strongly refuted" the suggestion that its report was not fit for purpose.

"In the part of the report referred to by RenewableNI, the absence of official figures from the Department (for the Economy) or the (Utility) Regulator on rates of return for small scale turbines meant that we calculated our own estimated rate of return based on available cost information and the actual average amount of electricity generated by turbines of this size," an NIAO spokesman said.

"We consider that our calculations are a reasonable estimate of an average rate of return."

 

He said the contentious section referred to by RenewableNI represented only a small part of the overall report, which was "evidentially based" and factually accurate.

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