Figures show 76 RHI applicants run boilers 24/7

Simon Hamilton (PIC: INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Simon Hamilton (PIC: INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has been urged to explain why his department did not take action sooner to prevent scores of RHI applicants running boilers round the clock.

Figures – uncovered in a Freedom of Information request made by the Irish News – show that one in 10 applicants to the botched green energy scheme fire up their boilers for between 145 and 168 hours a week – the equivalent of running them for between six and seven days non-stop.

In total, 76 of the installations that applied to the scheme are listed as running 24/7.

The data was provided by Ofgem, which administers the non-domestic RHI scheme and provides weekly updates to the Department for the Economy (formerly the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment).

The News Letter asked Ofgem how long it has been sending these updates to the Department for the Economy. We also asked what information is contained within these updates.

A spokesperson replied: “We have shared scheme data with DETI/DfE on a weekly basis since 2013. This data includes detailed information in relation to each application we have received including current status, technology type, capacity, date of accreditation and tariff.”

Former employment minister, Alliance’s Stephen Farry said: “There are major issues in terms of accountability as to why these actions were not given priority sooner, and indeed brought to a head.

“It is clear the urgency over both putting in place cost control mitigation and investigating fraud and misuse only really accelerated in recent months.”

Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate Steve Aiken added: “The Executive has been in full possession of the RHI facts for some time and seem to have done relatively little to prevent potential abuse of the scheme.”

We asked the DfE when it first became aware that some applicants were running boilers 24/7, but received no reply at the time of going to press.