RHI heat usage must be assessed to see if it is being abused

Morning View
Morning View

The scale of the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal has not been diminished with time.

It is, as the weeks have gone on, more apparent than it ever was that there needs to be a comprehensive inquiry into the affair.

This should not be a time for party political point scoring – there are lessons to be learned of the utmost importance to future good governance of Northern Ireland.

We report today on a regulation that could recoup payments from the worst abusers of the RHI scheme.

It is a relief to learn that sections 33 (o) and (p) of the regulations say that claimants must provide evidence that the heat that they are claiming for is used for an eligible purpose and that they must not generate heat for the purpose of increasing their payments.

It is surprising that these clauses have not been highlighted previously by some of the various officials and politicians who are being accused of incompetence over RHI. After all, it implies that the abuse could now be significantly curtailed.

It seems clear now that generously-funded investigations of RHI should be commenced, looking at every aspect of their usage of heat.

Honest users will have nothing to fear from such an examination. Profiteers, on the other hand, will be feeling nervous if such investigations are initiated, if they were not feeling nervous already.

If, for example, a claimant is heating a building that had not been previously heated, then they will have to explain precisely why they now need to heat it.

Meanwhile, energy experts should assess each property to estimate their reasonable heating needs. Such investigations should not be difficult. There are only 2,100 claimants on the non domestic scheme, the one that is most problematic.

That such a small number of claimants are costing the state so much money – money that could go to the NHS – makes these investigations all the more urgent.