A Free Presbyterian Church was among the many organisations across Northern Ireland to benefit from the RHI scheme, it has emerged, with the Ballymoney church standing to receive £270,000 over a 20-year-period.
One of the church’s elders is DUP MLA Mervyn Storey, who was a DUP minister in the last Executive.
When contacted by the News Letter last night and asked if he had any role in the application or if he had alerted the church to the scheme’s existence, Mr Storey said: “No. None whatsoever”.
He added: “I wasn’t involved in any of it. It was handled by one of the other elders who looks after all of those things.
“I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t even give him any advice in relation to it.”
Mr Storey said that a church committee, rather than the elders, were responsible for the project.
There is no suggestion that either the church or Mr Storey acted improperly or that the church is among the group of RHI claimants who are abusing the scheme.
Nevertheless, the News Letter asked Mr Storey if the church would consider paying back the money over and above what it needs to pay for its heating costs, given that it is now accepted that the scheme was far too generous and is therefore going to be a drain on the public purse.
The MLA said that he could not comment on that and it would be a matter for the church as a whole to consider.
The project has come to light because the company which installed the wood pellet boiler, Solmatix Renewables, publicised it on its website as a case study.
Solmatix said that the “financial rewards” for the church were £13,500 per year, made up of £1,000 oil savings each year and an annual RHI payment of £12,500.
The renewables company quoted church elder Jonathan McAuley saying: “We recognised that Biomass would meet all of our heating requirements for the church and free up around £10,000 a year for us to use in other mission works.”