UK court rules solar cuts ‘legally flawed’

By RTCC staff

The UK High Court has ruled that government decisions to slash feed-in-tariffs for solar panels on homes were ‘legally flawed’.

Mr Justice Mitting’s decision means there could be a judicial review which would force the UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to delay its plans to implement new tariffs.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) and solar companies Solarcentury and HomeSun took the government to court to test whether the changes were lawful.

The proposed new tariff of 21p per kilowatt-hour, reduced from 43p, was expected to come into effect from 1 April.

But on 31 October 2011 DECC announced a 50% reduction in payments to households and communities generating electricity through solar power.  The government said it would be paid to anyone who installed their solar panels after 12 December.

It gave six weeks’ notice before the cut-off date – which arrived before the end of a consultation on the issue.

Speaking after the announcement, Andy Aktins from Friends of the Earth said: “We believe the decision is premature, unfair and unlawful.

“These botched and illegal plans have cast a huge shadow over the solar industry, jeopardising thousands of jobs.”

“DECC has created chaos”

Solar PV panels

The UK tariff saw a ten-fold increase in installations from 2010 to 2011 with 500 MW installed in the last year

Solarcentury’s chairman Jeremy Leggett said: “We hope this ruling will prevent ministers rushing through damaging changes to clean energy subsidies – giving solar firms a much-needed confidence boost.

“The Court has stopped Government abusing its power but it doesn’t make up for the fact that DECC has created chaos for the renewable energy industry as a whole, and not just solar.

“Solarcentury was very reluctant to take this legal challenge but DECC gave us no choice. All of this could have been avoided if DECC had done a proper consultation last summer, as they promised, and engaged constructively with the solar industry.

UK Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker responded to today’s High Court ruling on the proposed changes to solar feed in tariffs:

“We disagree with the Court’s decision. We will be seeking an appeal and hope to secure a hearing as soon as possible. Regardless of today’s outcome, the current high tariffs for solar PV are not sustainable and changes need to be made in order to protect the budget which is funded by consumers through their energy bills.”

The decision comes a day after the independent Committee on Climate Change warned the UK’s flagship home energy-efficiency project the Green Deal could fail, predicting that just 10% of a possible six million lofts would be insulated as a result of the policy.

Germany has installed 18000 MW of solar energy capacity since it introduced its generous feed in tarrif. Changes to the UK tariff saw a ten-fold increase in installations from 2010 to 2011 with 500 MW installed in the last year, according to IMS Research.

Steve Blume, Vice President Public Affairs of the International Solar Energy Society (ISES) explains why feed-in-tariffs are so important in the solar industry:

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