RHI scandal: Image offers ‘rare glimpse’ of scheme at work

Image taken from the Irish News of shed at anonymous Fermanagh business, January 2017. Used with permission.
Image taken from the Irish News of shed at anonymous Fermanagh business, January 2017. Used with permission.

The Irish News on Wednesday published a picture which it said showed a “rare glimpse” inside an RHI-subsidised boiler operation.

The front page image showed a string of red boilers next to a shelf with material which looks like woodchips on it.

The image had been taken by an Irish News reporter in Co Fermanagh on Monday, January 9.

The newspaper did not disclose the location of the business, or the name of the man it interviewed who was running it.

It is understood the boilers were installed in June 2015 – a date which is highly-significant, since it makes it much more likely the business managed to get on the scheme before crucial cost controls were introduced later that year.

These cost controls cause the rate of subsidy to drop off sharply after a boiler has been on for a certain number of hours, discouraging people from keeping their boilers switched on all year round just to make money.

The paper said when it visited the business there were at least four boilers running in a shed, and the door was open.

It quoted the anonymous individual behind the development as saying that the business produced wood pellets (the same fuel used in many RHI boilers) and that the heat it was generating was used in “an industrial process”.

He said that the RHI scheme had “eliminated” his cost burden of heating the shed with oil – something he estimated had cost him £3,000 previously.

The Irish News quoted him as saying: “The boilers are a significant investment and if we weren’t in receipt of the subsidy it would be more cost-efficient to be running on oil.

“I wouldn’t say we’re abusing it, definitely not.

“The people that would be in question are the people who are heating sheds that they weren’t heating before and have no real use for them.

“There are people sitting with warehouses and no sides on them – that would be ineligible use.”