Friends of the Earth to bin solar panel in protest

 Solar installers in hard hats and overalls will join Friends of the Earth as a solar panel is put in a large bin to highlight the 29,000 jobs that will be lost through government cuts. This will take place as a Friends of the Earth application to the High Court to challenge ministers’ plans is heard in the High Court.

The High Court will hear applications by Friends of the Earth and two solar companies – Solarcentury and HomeSun – for permission to challenge government plans to slash financial incentives for solar electricity on Thursday 15 December 2011.

The legal challenges focus on government plans to slash Feed-in Tariff subsidies – payments made to households and communities that generate green electricity through solar panels – on any installations completed after 12 December this year. 

The government is currently running a consultation into feed-in tariffs – but the 12 December cut-off point came two weeks before the consultation ends. Friends of the Earth says this premature decision is unlawful and has already led to unfinished or planned projects being abandoned.

Solar is a growing, successful industry. The premature cuts could cost up to 29,000 jobs and lose the Treasury up to £230 million a year in tax income, a report commissioned by Friends of the Earth and Cut Don’t Kill – an alliance of solar firms and consumer and environmental organisations – revealed last month. Last week construction firm Carillion warned 4,500 workers their jobs are at risk because of the government’s proposals.

Friends of the Earth is also asking the High Court to cap its potential legal costs for the case. International rules specify that costs should be limited in public interest cases on the environment.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “The sudden cut in solar subsidies has led to the scrapping of countless clean energy schemes, preventing homes, businesses and communities around the country from freeing themselves from expensive fossil fuels and the Big Six energy companies.

“We believe government’s plans to move the goalposts and prematurely pull the subsidy are not only unfair, they’re also illegal – and hope the High Court allows us to challenge them.

“Cuts in solar subsidies should reflect falling installation costs, but these proposals got too far and will pull the plug on tens of thousands of jobs, bankrupt businesses and cost the Treasury millions of pounds a year.

“Ministers must change direction and help put the solar industry at the forefront of building a cleaner, safer future.”