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RHI scandal in Northern Ireland will not contaminate wider scheme

The scandal which has erupted in Northern Ireland over the escalating costs of the renewable heat incentive will not affect the scheme in the rest of the UK, says ADE leader.

It is “inevitable” that questions will be asked in government about whether the problems which undermined the use of the RHI in Northern Ireland could recur in the rest of the UK, Utility Week was told by the chief executive of the Association for Decentralised Energy, Tim Rotheray.

However, the trade body leader assured that “safeguards” were put in place in England and the other devolved nations to prevent the risk of “heat dumping”.

Rotheray said that architects of the wider RHI system “foresaw this risk” and introduced the biomass “step down” which causes revenues to decline after the first 15 per cent of a boiler’s anticipated annual output have been surpassed.

In Northern Ireland where no such safeguard was in place, the costs of the RHI have escalated and the scheme is thought to be more than £400m over budget.

On Monday, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned over this “squandering” of public money, throwing the Stormont administration into turmoil.

In the wake of this scandal, Rotheray cautioned the wider renewable heat industry to “behave responsibly”.

“If that doesn’t happen then it can cause a great deal of reputational damage,” he said.

Rotheray was also keen to stress that the furore over the RHI in Northern Ireland should not be used as an excuse to stall progress on the development of a clear strategy for the decarbonisation of heat in the UK.