High Court rules UK government’s solar feed-in tariff cuts are illegal

Credit: Friends of the Earth

In a vital victory for the solar industry, the UK High Court rules yesterday that the government’s planned cuts to the feed-in tariff (FIT) for domestic-scale solar installations are illegal.

The Court agreed with the challenge by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms – Solarcentury and HomeSun – that it is unlawful to cut FITs before the end of the official consultation period.

The decision could open the way for a full judicial review, which could force the government to relaunch its consultation and delay when the cuts come into force.

“These botched and illegal plans have cast a huge shadow over the solar industry, jeopardising thousands of jobs,” says Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins. “We hope this ruling will prevent Ministers rushing through damaging changes to clean energy subsidies – giving solar firms a much-needed confidence boost.”

But Energy Minister Greg Baker said the government disagreed with the court’s decision saying:
“We will be seeking an appeal and hope to secure a hearing as soon as possible. Regardless of [the] outcome, the current high tariffs for solar photovoltaic are not sustainable and changes need to be made in order to protect the budget.”

Friends of the Earth and the other challengers maintain that they do not disagree per se with cutting the FIT for solar power installations, but want to see the reductions phased in, in line with falling installation costs, as happens in other countries like Germany.

Meanwhile, two parliamentary select committees, the Energy and Climate Change and the Environmental Audit Committees, are also expected to deliver scathing criticism of the government’s handling of the episode later today.

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Related stories:
UK High Court gives go ahead to challenge government plans on feed-in tariffs (16-Dec)
UK hits solar feed-in tariff cut deadline but could face EU action (12-Dec)
House of Commons vote fails to save UK solar feed-in tariffs (25-Nov)
UK Government slashes feed-in tariffs for solar power (31-Oct)

22 December 2011