24th May 2017
Release of names of Individual RHI participants by the Department for the Economy
A Spokesman for the Renewable Heat Association NI (RHANI) said;
We are disappointed to see the release of individual’s names by the Department for the Economy and must ask the question as to why the Department has put so much effort into naming the scheme participants who are suffering as a consequence of its own (DfE) process in setting up and managing the RHI scheme. The names, grades and salaries of the civil servants who designed, managed and policed the scheme are not available on the Department for the Economy website.
The release of individual RHI client names comes following communication by DfE seeking clarification on RHI payment figures, despite it being the responsibility of the Department and Ofgem to manage these figures. Furthermore in most cases the detail was incorrect and those of our members who advised the Department of the inaccuracies were advised that the information would be published anyway.
The more distressing discovery we have made following the feedback from our members on these inaccurate figures is that the numbers being circulated seem to be misrepresented by up to 300% per year. This is gravely concerning as these are the figures which have been used in all of the Departments forecasting regarding the RHI.
The consequences of getting this financial detail wrong (once again) will be deeply damaging to the already tarnished reputation and public perception of the beleaguered Department for the Economy.
The DfE will have to stand over reported financial data in the upcoming Court case on 13 June. The court heard last week that DfE had acted unlawfully in early 2017, breaching a legal precedent established in 2010, in an internationally reported case about renewable energy. Evidence presented to the Economy Committee in January, 2017 indicates that DfE knew, at the time, that it was taking a huge legal risk and that the risk lay with the (then) Minister for the Economy.
It is also worth mentioning recent reports indicating that approximately ten recipients of the RHI in Northern Ireland may face a criminal investigation. The RHI scheme has just under 2,000 participants so this means that 1,970 are understood to be fully compliant with the scheme. At the concept stage the Department had designed the RHI scheme to attract 29,000 participants!
RHANI would welcome an update from the Department on the progress toward establishing an effective audit process and on the award of the audit tender which was due to be announced two weeks ago during week commencing 8th May 2017.
Notes to Editor
The RHI scheme was a government scheme which guaranteed, for twenty years, a rebate on renewable energy used for legitimate and productive purposes. The formula for calculating that rebate was set out in policy, in legislation and in regulations once set, the rebate/tariff was guaranteed for 20 years or, the life of the technology.
The Association (RHANI) represents the interests of about 500 authorised scheme participants – in the most part, small businesses who were encouraged and incentivised by government departments to invest hundreds of millions of pounds of their own money to change to using expensive, renewable energy and to make 20 year financial commitments.
Costs awarded to RHANI against DfE in the February Judicial Review exceeded £80,000.
Similar circumstances where DECC sought to retrospectively adjust renewable energy tariffs have been tested at every level of the UK legal system including the Supreme Court.