Renewable Heat Incentive Inquiry publishes report | Jason Beer QC Acted for Ofgem

13 March 2020

Jason Beer QC acted for the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (“Ofgem”).  He led Emily Neill, of Blackstone Chambers.

The renewable heat initiative (RHI) scheme was set up in 2012 as part of a UK-wide effort to encourage the use of renewable energy sources. The scheme paid businesses to switch from oil and gas to environmentally-friendly heating boilers. The boilers used wood pellets, but the subsidy payment was higher than the cost of the fuel, creating an incentive to use the boilers to generate income. The incentive was closed to new entrants in 2016 amid concerns about the potential cost. The debacle cost Stormont in the region of £30m and the political fall-out from the scandal left Northern Ireland without a government for three years.

  • Concerns included that the NI RHI scheme:
  • was not designed to include any viable cost controls despite the clear indication in April 2011 that the scheme would not be funded without limit by Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT);
  • did not take the opportunity in 2013 to mirror the equivalent GB RHI scheme and introduce some cost control measures at that time;
  • did not take account of changes to underlying costs since 2012 and therefore was overgenerous in incentivising renewable heat;
  • could not be changed quickly when it became apparent that demand was rising quickly;
  • was not approved by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) after April 2015, which resulted in irregular expenditure.  If the need for this approval had been identified at the right time then it could have been the catalyst for a wider review of the scheme;
  • had at least facilitated the possibility of payments that were, at best, not in line with the spirit of the scheme and, at worst, possibly obtained by fraud (though there was no prima facie evidence of fraud at that time);
  • was not properly monitored and controlled by the Department, which solely relied on the work being done by Ofgem that administered the scheme; and
  • did not identify the risks of overspending at an earlier stage, even though Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) allocations had been previously advised.  This had led to an impact on the Northern Ireland block grant which was likely to be measured in hundreds of millions of pounds. 
  • The report, which was published today found the scheme was a "project too far" for the NI Executive and "should never have been adopted" however ‘corrupt or malicious activity was not the cause of what went wrong with the scheme’.

Jason specialises in public inquiries, often acting for central government departments and other public authorities.  The RHI Inquiry was the seventeenth such inquiry in which he has appeared.

Please view the following links to read about the inquiry in the national press: BBC News | The Guardian

Related areas

Personal Injury


Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and event updates.



16 April 2024

Chambers is delighted to announce that Head of Chambers, Jason Beer KC is one of only…

Discover more

14 February 2022

The first hearings of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry commenced today.  Previously a non-statutory…

Discover more

19 December 2023

A message from Head of Chambers, Jason Beer KC, looking back at the past 12…

Discover more

Portfolio Builder

Select the practice areas that you would like to download or add to the portfolio

Download    Add to portfolio   
Title Type CV Email

Remove All


Click here to share this shortlist.
(It will expire after 30 days.)