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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 13 December, 2017
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Details of Ireland's Renewable Heat Incentive revealed today - but Leo won't be calling it 'RHI'

“We have learned from the mistakes in Northern Ireland,” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.

New Taoiseach Source: PA Images

THE GOVERNMENT IS to reveal the details of the Republic’s own Renewable Heating Incentive today.

After the North’s version of the scheme almost brought down the government, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten says they’ve taken care to ensure the Republic doesn’t repeat those same mistakes.

Incentives to encourage homes and businesses to generate energy from renewable sources has become a must in Ireland. We’ve committed to ensuring at least 16% of all Ireland’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2020, and if it doesn’t, we’ll face a massive €75 million fine each year after from the EU.

Predictions have deemed that Ireland will be one of four member states to miss its targets (by the end of 2015 we were at 9.1%).

During an interview with TheJournal.ie, Minister Naughten said that the government has “put a lot of checks and balances in place, we are not going to have the problems experienced in the North”.

“We have learned from the mistakes in Northern Ireland,” he said.

He’s not the only member of government to be concerned about an affiliation between the two schemes. In response to questions from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that they wouldn’t be calling it the “Renewable Heat Incentive”.

“I will ensure it is called something else,” Varadkar said.

“Windscale and Sellafield were different names for the same plant, albeit with many more safeguards. The Minister will also publicise other actions, particularly regarding price supports for solar power and other forms of renewable energy.”

Why the RHI hate?

In January, the late Martin McGuinness resigned from his role as deputy leader of the Stormont Assembly as a consequence of the cash-for-ash scandal, which revolved around the North’s Renewable Heat Incentive.

It aimed to encourage businesses and households to switch to more environmentally friendly heating methods through financial incentives.

But the subsidies that were paid out were not capped – meaning the more heat a business generated, the higher the subsidy it received. There were reports of businesses leaving the heating on all through the day, opening windows to cool down offices so that they would be entitled to more funding from the Stormont government.

The exploited, failed scheme is expected to cost taxpayers around £500 million – not to mention the political turmoil that ensued and led to the absence of a government in the North for most of 2017.

What do we know about Ireland’s scheme?

Budget Day 2018 Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten. Source: RollingNews.ie

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Communications said that the following points would be among the differences between the North’s and the Republic’s heating schemes.

  • Eligibility criteria that projects must conform to over the period of support which will ensure that heat generated under the Renewable Heat Incentive is applied to useful purposes only
  • Sustainability criteria which will be at least as stringent as those which apply to Bord na Móna Bioenergy in order to ensure sustainable biomass use
  • A number of budget management mechanisms including project budget caps that will ensure value for money for the exchequer.

Renewable energy grants

Separately, additional funding has been secured for a number of efficient energy schemes which include an extension to the government’s free ‘Warmer Home Energy Scheme’ to families receiving the Domiciliary Care Allowance from January next year.

The Warmer Home Energy scheme offers a broad package of measures free to householders in need of energy efficiency upgrades worth an average of €3,000. Some of the measures include attic and cavity wall insulation, draught proofing, lagging jackets, low energy light bulbs etc.

€28 million worth of grants will also be awarded in 2018 which will include a transition away from fossil fuel support.

Screenshot 2017-12-06 at 22.07.36

Naughten has also announced a new “energy efficiency support scheme” that will be brought in on a pilot basis, which is targeted at people in receipt of the government’s Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme.

This means investing in measures such as external wall insulation, windows, doors and renewable energy heating systems, such as heat pumps.

The government is also putting supports in place for those who rely on bogs as a natural resource; already, families with rights to six bogs have been approved for what the Department calls “energy efficiency improvements with significant state supports”.

The Minister also announced a ban on smoky coal earlier in the week.

- With reporting from Christina Finn.

Read: Leo is setting up his own Renewable Heat Incentive – but what will be different?

Read: The Environment Minister took TheJournal.ie for a spin in his new e-car – and Michael Healy Rae might be next

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