The Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell is to press ahead with his controversial decision to end a government incentive scheme for wind farms. Plans to close the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO) were criticised by farmers who had invested in single turbines in the belief that there would be no change to subsidies until 2017.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union and Simple Power said they would seek leave for a judicial review of the decision. The Minister has confirmed that the NIRO scheme for new large scale projects – those generating over 5MW of power – will close on April 1, but there will be a further consultation on closure arrangements for small scale wind turbines. In the meantime, the scheme remains open to new applications. DETI officials told Stormont’s Enterprise Committee yesterday that legislation would be brought before the Assembly next Tuesday.
Last month, Mr Bell came under fire from companies, farmers and MLAs for suddenly pulling the plug on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme after a £30m overspend by his department. RHI supported the installation of biomass energy systems in homes, farms, public buildings and businesses. Engineering firms that manufacture and install the equipment claim they will lose millions of pounds, and that up to 2,000 jobs could go, while the UFU said that up to 50 poultry farmers could be left with unfinished heating schemes that are too late to qualify for funding.
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