Stormont publishes list of ‘cash for ash’ companies

Poultry firms, churches, farms and hotels on Renewable Heat Incentive list

The first session of the  RHI public inquiry will be headed by retired judge Sir Patrick Coghlin in April.  Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The first session of the RHI public inquiry will be headed by retired judge Sir Patrick Coghlin in April. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Stormont’s economy department has released the names of companies in receipt of more than £27 million (€31 million) of payments from the controversial “cash for ash” Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

In January the fallout from the botched green energy scheme precipitated the collapse of government in the North.

Next month, the first session of an RHI public inquiry, headed by retired judge Sir Patrick Coghlin, will begin to inquire into allegations of incompetence and corruption.

On Thursday, the information on about half of the commercial operations to receive payments was published on the economy department’s website.

It includes the names of all limited companies and limited liability partnerships that received payments above £5,000 from 2012 to February 28th, 2017.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the companies listed by the department.

Poultry firms, churches, farms and hotels are on the newly published list as is Sainsbury’s supermarket chain, which has received some £220,000.

The National Trust has received over £100,000 and car dealership Charles Hurst Ltd has received over £250,000.

Wood pellet

Enniskillen-based wood pellet company Balcas Timber Ltd, in which government agency Invest NI has shares, received some £17,500.

While it is thought most recipients signed up to the scheme in good faith, an audit office report found areas of concerns including one user burning wood pellets around the clock to heat an empty chicken shed.

A department statement said the application of a threshold and the publication of this list were carried out in line with a judgment issued in the high court on March 1st, 2017.

It was working on a separate list of individuals in receipt of payments of £5,000 or more which it would publish in the next few weeks.

The scheme was modelled on Britain’s scheme to encourage farmers and businesses to switch from fossil fuels to biomass heating but there was no cap on usage. Many farmers and businesses receive £1.60 in subsidies for every £1 spent, so cost-reducing measures are being examined by Stormont.