Government FITs cut 'unlawful'

Published:  22 December, 2011

LONDON: Government plans to cut subsidies for solar panels on homes have been ruled legally flawed by the High Court.

Handing down his judgement yesterday, Justice Mitting said the decision by the government to reduce the tariff as of 12 December, 11 days before the consultation is due to close, was unlawful.

The government had said that subsidies for households that installed solar panels would be halved from 12 December. Environmental charity Friends of the Earth and two solar companies went to court to test whether the proposals were lawful.

The government has said it would defend a challenge at judicial review.

Under the feed-in tariffs programme, people in Britain with solar panels are paid for the electricity they generate. The new tariff of 21p per kilowatt-hour, down from the current 43p, had been expected to come into effect from 1 April, but in October the government said it would be paid to anyone who installed their solar panels after 12 December.

The tariff for surplus electricity exported to the national grid will remain at 3.1p per kilowatt-hour. The government had said the subsidy cut would ensure the scheme carried on in the future.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) and solar companies Solarcentury and HomeSun argued that that cut-off point - which came two weeks before the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) consultation on changes to the scheme was due to end - was unlawful. The government's decision has already been criticised by the CBI and the Local Government Association, which warned it would cost councils who had attempted to roll out the technology to poorer households hundreds of millions of pounds.

The public consultation on plans to slash the subsidy will remain open for comment until 23 December. Campaigners claim the government's decision has already cost thousands of jobs in the solar PV industry, with contractor Carillion citing the change of policy as the main reason for putting 4500 staff on notice at the end of November. Contractor Mears also wrote off £5m it had invested in growing a solar PV installations business.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: "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."

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