Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme inspections - questions and answers

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In August 2017, the Department appointed Ricardo Energy and Environment to undertake Phase 1 of an inspection programme of the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme. Phase 1 inspections are complete and the Department has appointed three contractors to a Framework Agreement to take forward the next phase of the inspection programme. The names of the contractors are Greenview Gas Ltd, Totalis Solutions Ltd and Element Consultants Ltd. If you are selected for an inspection, the Department will notify you in writing and one of the named contractors will contact you directly to arrange a site inspection. This page answers questions about the inspection process.

This page relates to installations on the Non-Domestic RHI Scheme. Information about the Domestic RHI Scheme can be found on nidirect website at: Renewable Heat Incentive for domestic customers

1. Why are these inspections taking place?

The Department for the Economy is committed to addressing the issue of public confidence in the Northern Ireland Non Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (the ‘Scheme’). It established a dedicated taskforce to focus on Scheme arrangements going forward to ensure compliance with the Scheme regulations and conditions. The inspection programme forms part of this work.                                        

2. How will participants be notified of the inspections process?

If you are selected for an inspection you will receive a letter from the Department informing you that you have been selected. The letter will also ask you to send some information and documents about each of your RHI installations to the DfE Inspections Team.

This information is being requested in advance of the inspection to enable the inspections to be undertaken efficiently and reduce the time taken on site. You will have seven days to respond to the request for information.The type of information and documents that will be requested will be based on the information that you have provided to Ofgem at application stage and throughout your participation on the Scheme.

3. What will the inspections involve?

The inspection process (which will include all biomass installations accredited at a selected site) will assess each installation for compliance with the Regulations and supporting Scheme Guidance including the participant’s ongoing obligations.

In particular, it will assess*:

  • if the heat produced is being used for an eligible purpose
  • whether there is any evidence of heat being wasted
  • whether the boiler is installed and being operated in line with the original RHI application and manufacturers’ instructions
  • if the energy management practices in place conform to industry (or sector) standards.

* see Non Domestic RHI Guidance Volume 1 - section 6 for definitions

4. Do participants have to comply with inspections?

Yes. When signing up to the Scheme, participants agreed to allow the Department, or its authorised agent, reasonable access to inspect the installation and associated infrastructure. Enforcement action may be taken if participants do not comply with the inspection process.

5. What sanctions will there be for non-compliance with the regulations?

The Department for the Economy is overseeing the inspections of all Scheme installations. Inspections will cover compliance with the Scheme Regulations and supporting Scheme Guidance including the participant’s ongoing obligations.  

Depending on the level of non-compliance with the Scheme’s regulations, there are a number of enforcement actions which might be taken ranging from providing advice on how to increase energy efficiency, the withholding of payments, financial penalties, or permanently excluding participants from the Scheme as set out in the Scheme regulations

6. When do I find out if I will be inspected?

Most inspections will be announced visits with a small number being unannounced. If your site has been selected as one of the announced inspections, you will receive a notification letter from the Department advising you of the forthcoming inspection. 

7. When will the inspections take place?

Inspections will normally take place within a few weeks of you receiving your notification letter from the Department. Prior to the inspection a DfE appointed contractor will contact you to schedule a date and time for the onsite inspection.

The inspection programme is an ongoing process which commenced on Monday 21 August 2017 and will continue throughout the lifetime of the Scheme.

8. Will participants be informed of the outcome of their inspection?

An inspection report will be completed for each site inspected based on the information available to the Inspector. Participants will receive a letter from the Department advising of the outcome of the inspection.

The Department will pass the report to Ofgem (our delivery partner) to take forward any necessary follow up action, if appropriate.

9. Will the Department publish when participants are being inspected?

The Department will not release details on when individual inspections take place. 

10. Will the results of the inspections be published?

Certain statistics from the inspection reports may be published. It is important that the public are kept informed on the use of public money and any outcomes from the inspections and compliance process.

11. How long will each inspection take?

The length of time inspectors will be on site will be dependent on how many installations are on site, the size of the site and the complexity of the business model. It is anticipated that a site inspection for a single installation inspection may take a few hours. This estimate is indicative only.

12. How many inspectors will be on site?

This will depend on how many installations are on site, the size of the site and the complexity of the business model

13. Do participants need to prepare any documentation in advance of an inspection?

Yes. When the Department notifies you that your site has been selected for an inspection the letter will contain details of the information and documents to be provided to the Department in advance of the site inspection. The type of information and evidence required includes the following:

  • details of the cost of the installation; source of funds for the installation such as bank loans, government grants or loans; invoices and payments relating to the Scheme installation and its ongoing maintenance
  • confirmation of ownership of the installation
  • details of the fuel used in the biomass installation including the type of fuel, supplier, copies of invoices, payments and fuel records
  • metering configuration and your records of readings
  • evidence on the commercial viability of the commercial activity relating to the heat use
  • confirmation that planning permission and/or building control is not required or copies of certification for those installations that require it. (If you are unsure if either apply please contact your local council / Planning Service).

The list above is not exhaustive. Full details of the information and documents required for your particular installation(s) will be set out in the Department’s initial notification letter with a response to the Department required within seven days. You may, therefore, wish to ensure this information is easily accessible to you in anticipation of your notification of an inspection.  

The Department may issue one reminder if the information is not provided or the information provided is incomplete. If information is unclear or still missing, the inspector will make a final request for the information to be made available during the site inspection.

The report will be written based on the information available to the inspector and the Department and you will be notified of the outcome once the Department for the Economy has considered the final report.

Should you fail to provide the information requested during the timescale specified it may be determined that you have failed to comply with your ongoing obligations as set out at Regulation 33 and 35 of the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme Regulations (NI) 2012. As a result it may further be deemed appropriate to take enforcement action, which could affect your periodic support payments.

For further information on why we are requesting this information please look to the scheme guidance and to the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme Regulations (NI) 2012 (as amended), and in particular Regulations 23, 33, 35 and Schedule 1.

14. Will the inspectors need to be accompanied during their visit?

No. Inspectors require access to all installations on site, but they do not need to be accompanied. However, participants should make themselves available during the inspection should the inspector wish to clarify any issues or request outstanding information and/or documentation, if relevant.

15. What is the inspection process?

1. If selected, the Department writes to the participant advising of the forthcoming site inspection.The letter requests information and documents about the biomass installations at the selected site.

2. The participant sends the requested information to the Department’s Inspection Team. If any information or documents are missing, the Department issues a reminder letter.

3. The participant responds to the Department’s reminder letter.

4. Within a few weeks, the appointed contractor will contact the participant to arrange a date and time for the visit. The contractor will be from one of the following companies: Greenview Gas Ltd, Totalis Solutions Ltd or Element Consultants Ltd.

5. The contractor / inspector completes the inspection (and requests any missing / further information, if relevant).

6. The inspector writes the inspection report and sends it to the Department.

7. The Department considers the report and informs the participant of the outcome of the inspection including if any compliance issues have been identified which will be taken forward by Ofgem (our delivery partner).

 

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