Energy Schemes: Unspent Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 22nd March 2022.

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Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance 3:15 pm, 22nd March 2022

T2. Mr Muir asked the Minister for the Economy, given that it emerged recently that, over the next 20 years, up to £660 million will remain unspent as a result of the failure to come up with an alternative proposal to spend cash on renewable heat incentives and schemes such as that, to explain why that is the case and to outline what he is doing to utilise the available funding. (AQT 2132/17-22)

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

Of course, it is not the case that money is unspent. As the Member said, it is over a 20-year period; it is not something that is unique to this financial year. The Member will be aware of my energy strategy and my action plan for 2022. We have an issue around RHI to deal with. There will be financial consequences of that. That will then give us an idea of the sums of money that we will have left to deal with any future scheme that will incentivise renewable energy. He will understand that a lot of work and due diligence need to be done before that can be brought forward.

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

I thank the Minister for his response. I return to the issue of energy. The Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) reported today that:

"Since the issues associated with RHI emerged, the NIAO has continued to observe a culture at DfE where on some occasions issues have not been shared with us ... This leads us to conclude that the culture within the Department has not yet changed sufficiently and we would urge continued improvement, especially in relation to openness."

What actions has the Minister taken to address that?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I note the recommendations from the RHI inquiry. If there is further work for us to carry out, we can do that, but it will be a continued conversation that will take place between officials and, no doubt, Committees in the days to come. I want to be as open and transparent as I can. That is something that I am committed to.