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In December 2011 the high court ruled that the proposed changes to cut the payout on solar panels was unlawful.
Friends of the Earth and 2 solar companies Solar Energy and Homesun challenged the governments proposed ruling of cutting the 43p return on solar energy panels to 21p – thereby halving the return on investment. They challenged whether the governments proposition was legal and by continuing with their plans unchallenged, threaten to devastate the whole industry through loss of confidence both within the workforce and the consumers who will see a drop on their return.
Friends of the Earth, Solar Energy and Homesun insist that the changes the government propose are too swift and are not allowing the industry to adjust. There is no denying that changes do need to be made, but they need to be made in a more timely manner. Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said: "These botched and illegal plans have cast a huge shadow over the solar industry, jeopardising thousands of jobs. Solar payments should fall in line with falling installation costs but the speed of the government's proposals threatened to devastate the entire industry."
The decision by the High Court came after a two day hearing and the government responded with an immediate decision it would be appealing the decision. Energy 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.”
So what has been happening in the Solar industry since this well publicised High Court ruling?
The Governments Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as expected have lodged an appeal against the High Court decsion with the Court of Appeal. A DECC spokesperson said “We have lodged grounds of appeal with the Court of Appeal. We hope that permission will be granted for an appeal and that we can secure a hearing as soon as possible so that we can provide clarity for consumers and industry on the way forward following the consultation.
“The High Court’s decision was based on the view that the proposed approach to implementing new tariffs for solar PV is inconsistent with the FIT scheme’s statutory purpose of encouraging small-scale low-carbon electricity generation.
“We disagree with this for a number of reasons. The overriding aim of the proposed reduction in tariffs for solar PV (as set out in the recent consultation) is to ensure that over the long term as many people as possible are encouraged to install small scale low-carbon generation (including other technologies as well as solar PV) and benefit from the funding available for the FIT scheme. Without an urgent reduction in the current tariffs, which give a very generous return, the budget for the scheme would be severely depleted and there would be very little available for future solar PV generators, or for other technologies. Our view is that the urgent steps we have proposed to protect the scheme for the future are fully consistent with the scheme’s statutory purpose.
We have also made the point that the judicial review was premature as no decision has yet been taken, and a decision will only be taken after a full analysis of the responses to the consultation.”
The Governments Appeal is today, Friday 13th January 2012
The hearing will consist of the Application for permission to appeal – and if granted – the Appeal itself will take place today.
In response to the DECC Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “This appeal will only add to the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the solar industry.
“We urgently need an action plan to protect this vital sector - and the 30,000 jobs currently under threat.
“Ministers should recycle some of the multi-million pound tax revenues generated by solar firms to safeguard the industry and enable more homes, businesses and communities to switch to clean energy.
“That’s why we’re campaigning for Government to do more to protect cash-strapped households from soaring fuel bills by delivering clean British energy we can all afford.”
Whilst there may be no decision until early next week, we are all awaiting with interest to see who the real winners will be.