Court rejects UK government’s appeal over ‘unlawful’ feed-in tariff cuts

The Court of Appeal this morning unanimously rejected the UK government’s attempt to overturn the ruling last month that its plans to rush through cuts to solar feed-in tariffs (FITs) are unlawful.

Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal have now ruled that the government’s plans to bring in a reduction to solar FITs before the end of the consultation period are unlawful. But the government is now seeking to take its appeal to the Supreme Court.

Friends of the Earth, who brought the original action against the changes with solar installers Solarcentury and HomeSun, said taking the appeal to the Supreme Court would waste time and money and create yet more uncertainty for the industry.

Today’s ruling means that, subject to the outcome of any appeal to the Supreme Court, solar FITs will remain at 43.3p per kWh until March 3, when they will fall to 21p.

The judgement will also prevent the government rushing through cuts to FIT levels in future, says Friends of the Earth, and bring back some confidence to the industry. But the lobby group warned that jobs are still at risk.

According to the Court of Appeal ruling, Ministers will now have to consult with industry before making any changes and instigate Parliamentary procedures that take 40 days to enact.

“The Government must now take steps to safeguard the UK’s solar industry and the 29,000 jobs still facing the chop,” says Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins. “Ministers must abandon plans to tighten the screw on which homes qualify for solar payments – and use the massive tax revenues generated by solar to protect the industry.”

From April, the government is proposing that homes must meet a minimum energy efficiency standard before receiving a FIT, which would massively curtail uptake of the technology.

The government is now due to publish the outcome of its solar consultation on February 9, when it is also expected to outline further changes to the FIT scheme.

CEO of green energy supplier Good Energy, Juliet Davenport, predicts a new gold-rush for solar installers until the new March 3 deadline.

“FIT is a great way to give people more control of their energy bills, so it’s no surprise that the scheme has been popular – it should not be a victim of its own success,” she says. “The government must reform the tariff to prevent this boom-and-bust situation from happening again.”

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Related stories:
UK government attempts to end uncertainty over feed-in tariffs (20-Jan)
UK government to appeal against High Court feed-in tariff ruling (5-Jan)
High Court rules UK government’s solar feed-in tariff cuts are illegal (22-Dec 2011)

25 January 2012