RHI cut ‘may give NI the lowest rate in all of Europe’

RHI boiler owners could soon be receiving the lowest subsidies in Europe if planned cuts to their tariffs go ahead.

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 6:00 am
Ian Paisley described the planned cuts as severe and unfair

That is the belief of Andrew Trimble, the chairman of an association representing about 600 of them, as the government gets set today to bring its plans for a cut of up to 96% in subsidies before the House of Commons.

The cuts are incorporated into a bill about rates, rather than being a stand-alone piece of legislation, and the government is fast-tracking it through the Commons with the aim of getting it to skip through several stages in a single day today before it goes to the House of Lords.

However, it emerged late last night an amendment has been proposed by Tory Andrew Murrison, co-sponsored by the DUP’s Ian Paisley, calling for the RHI issue to be decoupled from the rates bill.

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The aim is to allow for more scrutiny and debate of the RHI subsidies.

The DUP has voiced misgivings about the process this week.

Firstly Mr Paisley (MP for North Antrim) was quoted in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph as saying the proposals were “grossly unfair” and “incredibly severe”.

Then asked yesterday if the party itself backed Mr Paisley’s stance, the DUP said: “The proposals to cut tariffs are the work of the Department for the Economy.

“We were given very late notice of the plan ... It is important that the facts of the situation are established and that fairness and balance is achieved for both the taxpayer and those in the RHI scheme who have genuinely observed the scheme criteria.”

As reported last week, the government’s plan would reduce the subsidy for people who own 99kw non-domestic boilers (the most popular kind) from the 6.5p per kwh they got at the end of 2016, to a maximum rate of 1.7p today.

Once further changes to the tiered payments are taken into account, boiler owners could see their subsidies fall by 96% in all.

Mr Trimble said similar renewables schemes operate in places like Holland, Germany, and elsewhere, and it is his belief that if such a 1.7p maximum rate is imposed on Northern Ireland, “there is no other scheme in Europe that pays any less than that”.

He has been urging some of his members to lobby both DUP MPs and abstentionist Sinn Fein ones, saying “I’m proud to say we have farmers of all and no faith” involved with his Renewable Heat Association, as well as sports clubs, including GAA ones.

In the roughly 48-hour period before speaking to the News Letter yesterday, he said he had received about another 10 applications to join RHANI, including from care homes and garden centres.

“I hope the secretary of state will listen to the pleadings from left, right and centre, and hope very much she will delay a decision on the Northern Ireland scheme at least until the public inquiry has issued its findings,” he said.