Northern Ireland

RHI: Names of heat scheme companies could be published

burning wood
Image caption Poor governance of the overgenerous green energy scheme has led to a potential overspend of £400m over the next 20 years

Businesses in receipt of subsidies under the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme have been given until early January to decide if they will allow their names to be published.

If they agree, both the company name and the name of its owner would be put on the public record.

Information about the accredited boilers and the amount of subsidy being generated could also be given out.

The Department of the Economy has sent a letter to businesses.

It said the step was being taken in the "interests of openness and transparency".

The department said it was "minded to publish the list of beneficiaries of the scheme".

Poor governance of the overgenerous green energy scheme has led to a potential overspend of £400m over the next 20 years.

It has resulted in huge political fallout.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called on First Minister Arlene Foster to stand down pending an investigation.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Martin McGuinness has called on Arlene Foster to step aside pending an investigation

Ms Foster has said she will not step aside.

She was the minister in charge at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment when the scheme was set up in 2012.

A former DUP minister, Jonathan Bell, who took over the department claimed senior DUP officials interfered to keep it open in 2015 open despite mounting concern about its costs.

That allegation has been denied.

It was eventually shut in the February 2016 following a huge spike in applications in the autumn of the previous year as businesses rushed to beat a change in the subsidy rate.

In its letter to businesses, the department says the request for permission to publish the names of beneficiaries "does not of course suggest or imply any wrongdoing on your part in relation to the scheme".

The assembly meets on Monday to discuss the fallout from the scheme. Plans to limit future spending on the scheme which guaranteed companies generous subsidies for a 20 year term are expected to be outlined.

These will include measures to address any fraud that is identified.

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