Fresh call for transparency on RHI after ‘heat map’ published

A handful of wood pellets, the main fuel used in the RHI scheme
A handful of wood pellets, the main fuel used in the RHI scheme

Renewed calls for the names of all RHI participants to be identified have been made as new information about the botched green energy scheme emerged on Tuesday.

A breakdown of all non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive sites shows the greatest concentration of applications under the scheme to be in the Mid-Ulster and north Antrim areas.

Around one in six of the total 2,128 sites are in the Dungannon area with 342, while between them the Ballymena and Ballymoney areas have 276.

A total of 1014 are at commercial premises, 871 are poultry farms with the remaining 243 on other types of farming enterprises, according to figures released to the BBC Nolan Show.

Last week, Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said major poultry producer Moy Park had “briefed my officials in relation to new concerns over the RHI scheme,” but did not elaborate on the nature of the concerns.

Asked about it’s involvement with the scheme, Moy Park – which has a factory in Dungannon – told the Mid-Ulster Mail: “We have been advocating the use of hot water heating systems across our poultry production in England and Northern Ireland for many years. These systems produce a dry heat which creates a healthy environment for the chickens.

“We made two investments in hot water heating – one through the RHI scheme in Great Britain as part of an energy supply contract arrangement and one in Northern Ireland where we invested in four 199KW boilers under the revised RHI Scheme which is tiered and capped, similar to the scheme in GB.”

Speaking under parliamentary privilege at the NI Assembly on Monday evening, former DETI minister and DUP MLA Jonathan Bell made allegations that he was told two DUP special advisors had a personal interest in keeping the scheme’s tariffs at the generous levels in operation.

The party moved quickly to issue a categorical denial of the allegations.

Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie has challenged the DUP to publish details of everyone involved with scheme to ensure full public confidence.

“Why don’t DUP just publish the names of the RHI recipients and put the Bell disclosure to bed? What’s to hide?” the Ulster Unionist assemblyman tweeted.

Speaking to the News Letter on Tuesday, Mr Beattie said believes the RHI user information gives a clear indication that much of the information around installations and payments received will be placed in the public domain.

“That’s what the scheme said when you signed up for it. Therefore he (the minister) does have the ability to release this information – he’s just not going to.

“That’s how we see it. I am confused by the decision, and confounded that they can put a lot of this speculation to bed if they release it,” he added.

Former Alliance leader David Ford also tweeted an image of page 38 of the 42 page RHI application form, including the section that says: “Details of an accredited installation, including its location...and all payments received, will be freely available to the general public”.

It added: “All other information provided to Ofgem, including your account security information (user name and password) will be kept confidential.”

Mr Ford added the comment: “Why the secrecy about RHI beneficiaries?”

Last month, the Department of the Economy sent a letter to businesses, saying it was “minded to publish the list of beneficiaries of the scheme”.

The letter said the step was being taken in the “interests of openness and transparency”.

The generous scheme led to a potential overspend of almost £500 million over the next 20 years, however, the outgoing first minister Arlene has pledged to introduce measures to drastically reduce the overspend.

The letter also advises businesses that the request for permission to publish the names of beneficiaries “does not of course suggest or imply any wrongdoing on your part in relation to the scheme”.