Renewable Heat Incentive: Energy Subsidy Brings Homeowners Huge Profits

Tory MPs, members of Lords and multi-millionaire landowners are raking in huge sums from a taxpayer-funded grant to heat their mansions even as millions face fuel poverty this winter, openDemocracy can reveal.

Beneficiaries identified by this website include International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who claimed £80,000; Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the MP who led a parliamentary inquiry into whether the program offered good value for money; and two members of the House of Lords, one of whom is set to earn over £1million.

The Renewable Non-Domestic Heat (RHI) Incentive was intended to encourage a shift to cleaner energy and has been operating since 2011. Under this scheme, anyone who installs a qualifying “green” boiler in a business or building of the public sector enjoys 20 years of payments for their sentence.

A similar scandal caused a political earthquake that paralyzed the Northern Irish government for three years.

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Martyn Day, MP for the SNP, told openDemocracy: “These are deeply worrying results which will rightly raise concerns as households across the UK grapple with the spiraling cost of living crisis caused by conservatives.”

Day, who reviewed the scheme as part of the Public Accounts Committee in 2018, added: “As ordinary people are forced to make the impossible choice between heating and eating, the UK government has serious questions to answer about its priorities.

Some 110,000 homes and 22,000 businesses have applied for the RHI, which is expected to cost £23billion and last until 2042. The latest round of new applicants received funding this year.

Documents reveal that Tory politicians have failed to quell some of the grant’s most egregious flaws, even as they cut support for other key green measures.

Ruth London, head of Fuel Poverty Action, told openDemocracy: “Every year millions of people freeze and run into debt in Europe’s worst-insulated homes, and every year thousands die of cold and damp. Yet the rich few are once again sucking up the resources we need for our survival.

Energy watchdog Ofgem told the Clifton-Brown inquiry in 2018 that recipients were “gambling” with the scheme and had privately warned as early as 2011 that it carried a “significant risk of fraud”. There is no evidence that the MPs or peers named in this article have committed fraud.

Maximize payments

Among the parliamentarians calling for the renewable heating incentive is Arthur Gore, the Earl of Arran, who has served in the House of Lords since 1983.

Gore’s family home, Castle Hill in Devon, is heated by a biomass boiler system.

Castle Hill is part of Gore’s own Fortescue estate, where 50 cottages are let.

The house itself is not open to the public. But the public pays for its heating – which has been designed to “maximize” the amount extracted from taxpayers, and which heats a swimming pool as well as the sprawling countryside pile.

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