Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI): £316k of RHI money to be recouped by Stormont

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

image copyrightCharles McQuillan
image captionThe RHI boiler scheme led to a three-year collapse of Stormont's devolved government

Only a small amount of the total cash paid out to RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) scheme claimants is to be clawed back by Stormont.

Officials have identified £316,000 to be recouped across 15 sites in Northern Ireland.

This figure equates to 0.24% of all the money paid out to 1,200 businesses in the scheme in the eight years up to 2021.

Close to £130m was paid in subsidies over that period.

The figures were revealed in response to an assembly question by SDLP MLA Sinead McLaughlin.

It said audits had found issues at most sites, but the vast majority had been resolved after engagement with owners.

Most of the money to be clawed back is being pursued through the courts, with a small amount being offset against future payments.

Boiler owners have said the figure gives the lie to allegations of widespread scheme abuse.

The Department for the Economy is consulting on plans for the future of the non-domestic RHI scheme.

The preferred option is to shut it and buy out the participants.

Catalogue of errors

A commitment to close the scheme and bring forward an alternative was part of the New Decade New Approach agreement that restored Stormont.

Allegations of scheme abuse, political patronage and the potential for over-generous subsidy payments to overwhelm the Stormont budget led to the collapse of the political institutions for three years.

A public inquiry criticised politicians, advisers, civil servants and consultants, but concluded that corrupt or malicious activity had not contributed to what went wrong.

Instead it found a catalogue of errors in a scheme that had been poorly designed, run and monitored.

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