Deep concern in Northern Ireland over closure of RHI scheme

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has written to Department for Economy (DfE) Minister Diane Dodds, about the Northern Ireland Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. She recently said the latest tariff review has been paused to enable work on the closure of the scheme to proceed.

Farmers said her comments were deeply concerning. “The UFU object to any proposal to close the NI RHI scheme as it will put legitimate agricultural users of the scheme at a competitive and comparative disadvantage to farmers not only in Great Britain (GB) but also in the Republic of Ireland (ROI),” said UFU deputy president David Brown.

“Closing the scheme without any consultation is reckless and will have alarming consequences for an already decimated sector. The RHI scheme was initially created to encourage the generation of heat from renewable sources as we work towards a greener world and this recent revelation has left us struggling to understand their rationale. It comes on the back of drastic RHI tariff cuts that effectively forced boiler owners to revert to fossil fuels and was acknowledged by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report in June 2019.

“Any early closure of the RHI scheme is contradictory as far as our ‘green credentials’ are concerned. Especially when the NI farming sector is under constant and severe pressure from many quarters including Government, to create and accelerate environmental change.”

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report also identified stark differences in payments over the lifetime of the GB and NI schemes and called for parity with the GB RHI scheme. On numerous occasions the UFU reiterated the gap in RHI scheme payments between regions which put boiler owners in NI at a competitive disadvantage.

The UFU has requested an urgent meeting with the DfE Minister granting her the opportunity to explain her response to Jim Allister MLA’s comments.

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