Northern Ireland

Renewable energy: 'Jobs at risk' if NI subsidy scheme ends

Wood pellets Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The scheme was set up to encourage homes and businesses to move to renewable energy

Millions of pounds worth of work will be lost and jobs are at risk if a green energy scheme is scrapped, according to renewables companies.

Stormont's Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has announced his intention to shut the scheme as soon as possible.

A huge spike in applications and a change in Treasury funding rules means money for it has run out.

The Northern Ireland Executive has been left with a £30m overspend to honour promised payments.

However, installation firms have said that if the renewable heat incentive scheme shuts next week they will lose work, be left with hundreds of thousands of pounds of stock and have to lay off staff.

Image caption The preferred option for most who applied for subsidies was the installation of wood pellet burners

Among the projects potentially at risk is a £1m scheme to convert the energy supply of 120 sheltered homes in Belfast from electric to wood pellets.

Applications rush

Francis Glackin runs an installation company based in Bellaghy, County Londonderry.

He has had to shelve 25 projects worth about £2m.

Mr Glackin said he will have to halve his 28-strong workforce if the scheme shuts.

Image caption Francis Glackin said the scrapping of the subsidy scheme would mean job losses at his company

As an established plumbing company, he said he can keep going, but claimed the situation has been badly handled.

The scheme was set up to encourage homes and businesses to move to greener energy.

The preferred option for most was wood pellet burners.

The subsidy scheme was to help cover expensive installation costs.

The cost for a medium-sized business is around £40,000.

Subsidies were particularly generous for companies which could recoup an average of £24,000 a year over a 20-year contract.

There was no cap on how much subsidy could be earned.

The more heat that was generated, the more people were paid.

There was a rush of 900 applications last autumn, around the same time that Stormont's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) announced plans to cut the subsidies.

The scheme cannot close without assembly approval and it is to be put to a vote early next week.

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