Possible RHI scheme changes are cause for concern: UFU

Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, says the UFU has major concerns about key parts of the consultation on the future of the RHI scheme and the impact which the continuing political impasse at Stormont will have on taking critical related decisions.

The UFU deputy president was commenting after the UFU submitted its response to the DfE’s current RHI scheme consultation.

“The outcome of this consultation could have serious consequences for the farmers who legitimately invested in boilers for their farm businesses,” said Mr Chestnutt.

“If the department is unable to put in place a replacement tariff from next April, there will be no legislative payment mechanism for small and medium sized boilers accredited before 18 November 2015. This would affect over 1,700 genuine installations.”

With no devolved minister to sign off any new RHI legislation, the onus will be on the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to finalise and implement new regulations - with the added complication of possibly still having to secure state aid approval from the European Commission.

In its response to the consultation the UFU has challenged as fundamentally flawed the assumptions on the price differential between gas and wood pellets and the significant impact this has on fuel use when heating water on poultry farms.

“We consulted widely with our members before reaching a final position. We want to revert to the tariff structure under the original 2012 regulations. This is the only acceptable option for our members who, on the basis of an Northern Ireland government scheme at that time to help meet EU renewable energy targets, have invested more than £130 million of their money into this technology. Our stance also reflects the fact that the vast majority have been using heat responsibly – as has already been confirmed by a number of reports,” said Mr Chestnutt.