Picture: Cliff Donaldson
This week, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) were invited to provide evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in the House of Commons in Westminster, on the Northern Ireland Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), setting out the impact of crippling tariff cuts.
Making the case for farmers caught up in the scheme, senior policy officer Chris Osborne stressed the impact that the 2017 and 2019 tariff cuts have had on members, as well as the need for support for small scale renewables in NI. Representatives from the Federation of Small Businesses and Renewable Heat Association (NI) also provided evidence.
Commenting, Mr Osborne said, “I made it clear to the NI Affairs Committee that cost controls created to limit subsidies for biomass boiler use, have put severe financial pressure on our members involved in RHI and that it is they who have been paying the price for years, for civil servant incompetence which is neither fair nor acceptable.
“Due to tariff cuts, 30% of boilers have been turned off and are gathering dust, up to a half are poultry farms. The whole aim of RHI was to move businesses away from the use of fossil fuels but it has pushed many back to using the energy source for heating which is a disaster when we are working towards the decarbonisation of our industry.
“At the hearing we made it clear that NI RHI recipients should be switched to the GB RHI scheme, at a rate which puts us on a much needed, level playing field and would restore our competitiveness. OFGEM data for 2022/23 has shown that RHI payments in NI totalled £2.7m, the figure for GB over the same period was £887.43 million.
“We also urged government to make it a priority to get adequate support in place for small scale renewables locally. NI is the only region in the UK without any support for decarbonisation which can further reduce the use of fossil fuels.”