Independent expert to consider financial hardship claims resulting from RHI tariff changes

Date published: 10 October 2019

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The Department for the Economy (DfE) today announced the appointment of energy expert Andrew Buglass to consider the issue of hardship relating to participants in the NI Non-Domestic RHI scheme (NIRHI).

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Mr Buglass’ appointment follows a Call for Evidence process with NIRHI participants, which took place in the summer. It sought evidence of the presence and nature of financial hardship as a result of changes in the NIRHI tariffs. The Department today published its response to that consultation.

While the majority of the 78 respondents to the Call for Evidence claimed they face hardship as a result of the tariff changes, only a minority submitted sufficient supporting evidence to the Department of their circumstances.  Many indicated a preference to instead deal directly with the independent person or panel that would consider the issue.

Mr Buglass, an independent consultant with significant experience advising on energy schemes, will engage with participants to consider and seek evidence of hardship suffered by businesses as a result of participation in NIRHI.

He will develop a relevant definition of hardship, investigate its presence as a result of NIRHI participation, and make recommendations to the Department on any appropriate course of action. He intends to report to the Department before the end of the year.

Notes to editors: 

1. The RHI Scheme was introduced in November 2012 and was designed to increase the uptake of renewable heating technologies by providing ongoing payments to cover the projected difference in cost between renewable heating and fossil fuels, as well as an internal return on the additional capital cost of a renewable heat boiler. The NIRHI was based on the GB Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme but with different tariff rates and the absence of important cost control measures, including a tiered tariff structure.

2. Expenditure on the Scheme was expected to breach the available budget in 2015, therefore several legislative changes were introduced in 2017 and 2018 as an interim measure while a long term policy was being developed. In 2019 the Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) Act 2019 introduced a revised tariff structure applicable to all small and medium sized biomass installations, to ensure that the Scheme operated within both budgetary and State aid limits.

3. During passage of the 2019 Act, the Department made a commitment to investigate potential hardship through the appointment of an independent chair to consider the individual circumstances of any participant who believed the tariff changes had resulted in hardship.

4. Following on from a Call for Evidence which sought information and views from participants on the issue, the appointment of Mr Buglass fulfils this commitment.  It will permit an independent and detailed consideration of business circumstances.

5. Mr Buglass has nearly 30 years of experience providing expert support in the energy sector in the UK and has extensive investment and lending experience, having delivered investment in excess of £11bn in over 30 countries. He has had no prior involvement with the NIRHI Scheme.

6. Department’s response to the Call for Evidence is available on the RHI Hardship Unit Call for Evidence page on the website.

7. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department for the Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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