For the record, here’s the NI Audit Office update on the RHI ‘scandal’:
- Of the 1,687 boilers installed prior to 18 November 2015 and which are currently in payment, 659 (39%) are using the boilers for more than 50% of the available hours in a year i.e. more than 12 hours a day and 7 days a week all year round with an RHI subsidy per boiler in 2016‐17 of at least £28,000. Of these 10 boilers are being used for 90% or more of the available hours with a subsidy per boiler of at least £50,000 in 2016‐17.
- A new tiered tariff was introduced for applications after 18 November 2015 up to the closure of the scheme with a cap at 400,000 kWh. There is a considerably different pattern of usage in the revised scheme ‐ of the 251 boilers installed and operating under the revised scheme 96% were being used for 30% or less of the hours in a year and only one was used for more than 50% of the hours in a year.
- The Department has introduced new regulations for 2017‐18 so that the tiered rate and cap on heat output now applies to all users, not just those who applied after 18 November 2015. This is for one year only with the Department intending to consult on the rates to be applied in the future. The new regulations are subject to an ongoing judicial review, which has challenged the ability of the Department to significantly vary the subsidy rates other than in line with inflation.
- The maximum payment for boilers under the revised scheme is around £19,600 (for a typical 199kW boiler) compared to around £56,370 (for the typical 99 kW boiler) under the previous regulations. Under these new regulations, the Department estimated the cost of the scheme in 2017‐18 will be £24 million compared to £52 million had the old regulations continued to stand. The cost to the NI budget in 2017‐18 is also projected to reduce to £2 million compared to around £30 million had the old rates continued to stand.
Now, if there is a legal challenge, these estimates will be out. That said, and given the transparent change in behaviour the tiering system has brought in, it doesn’t presently seem to be an issue. It still remains a poorly constructed scheme (paying by burn rates, tiered or not, ain’t Green).
But, the 1/2 Billion projected overrun appears now to be more a matter of science fiction than science fact. Tell me, why have the local parties in Northern Ireland hand back the keys of power to the conservatives again?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty