Stormont still paying for RHI adverts until days ago

The RHI scheme paid participants �1.60 for every �1 they spent on wood pellets
The RHI scheme paid participants �1.60 for every �1 they spent on wood pellets

The Stormont department responsible for the RHI debacle has been paying to advertise the scheme up until a few days ago, the News Letter can reveal.

Although it is almost a year since applications for the disastrously lucrative subsidy were halted, as recently as last Friday taxpayers were being billed each time an individual clicked on an internet advertisement to consider installing a biomass boiler.

A week after the News Letter asked the Department for the Economy to explain why it was still paying for the adverts, and despite repeated requests for comment, it has not responded in any way.

We also asked whether it would now halt the advertising campaign (which now appears to have been done) and how much it had spent with Google to advertise the scheme but there was no response.

The advert – which appeared on Google when certain search terms were inputted – appears to have been part of a ‘pay per click’ campaign whereby costs rack up according to how many people click on the link.

The link – which invited web users to see how they could “benefit from [the] new RHI scheme” – took users to a page which explained that the scheme had closed.

A source said that Google adverts “are easily stopped by a mouse click but someone in the department must not know what they are doing”.

The revelation is the latest in a long line of gaffes by the department and its predecessor, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, as part of the RHI scheme – most notably, the still unexplained decision to strip out cost controls when it was decided that Northern Ireland would largely copy the GB RHI scheme but make minor changes to it.