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Coronavirus: NI wind turbine owners receive 500k in Covid grants  

Credit:  By David Thompson | BBC Nolan Show | BBC News | www.bbc.co.uk ~~

Fifty-two Northern Ireland wind turbine owners have received emergency coronavirus funding from Stormont.

A £10,000 payment was sent automatically to any business in receipt of small business rates relief.

The sector has subsequently been ruled ineligible by the Department for the Economy, after over £500,000 was paid.

The department said it is trying to recover money that went to those who are ineligible, but it is unclear if this covers wind turbine owners.

Officials admit turbine owners would not experience financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

According to the Audit Office, there were 1,200 standalone wind turbines in Northern Ireland.

Many wind turbines in NI were already receiving ‘excessive’ subsidies, according to the Audit Office.

The payments were revealed by BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show on Monday.

‘Automatic Payment’

When the Small Business Support Grant Scheme was announced on 18 March 2020 businesses who were already in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief automatically received a grant payment of £10,000.

However, it was only received by those whose bank details were held by Land and Property Services for ratings purposes.

In response to a question from the Nolan Show, the Department for the Economy stated that because wind turbines were not explicitly excluded from the scheme at the outset, this initial batch of payments included 52 wind turbines.

Correspondence seen by the programme showed the department advised Land and Property Services, which administered the scheme, that wind turbines were not eligible for the payment on 6 May, seven weeks after the scheme was announced.

A department spokesperson said the initial payment method was agreed by the NI Executive.

They said a review “determined that owners of wind turbines would not have experienced financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19 crisis”.

“The department therefore made the decision that wind turbines would not be eligible for support under the scheme.

“The department will, where possible, seek to recover any funding that may have been paid to those deemed ineligible to receive payment.”

It is unclear if payments to wind turbine owners can be recouped.

‘Excessive subsidy’

Earlier in October, the Audit Office reported that owners of standalone turbines and anaerobic digesters were being paid “excessive” subsidies from people’s electricity bills under the Northern Ireland Renewable Obligation (NIRO) scheme.

The Department for the Economy has been unable to confirm whether owners of anaerobic digesters also received the coronavirus payment.

Wind farms produce most of Northern Ireland’s renewable electricity and receive a similar level of support to those in Britain.

But owners of standalone turbines and anaerobic digesters, which contribute 17% of green energy, get much higher payments.

Northern Ireland electricity consumers pay £31 a year towards the cost of renewables.

The NIRO scheme was introduced by First Minister Arlene Foster when she was economy minister.

Source:  By David Thompson | BBC Nolan Show | BBC News | www.bbc.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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