The High Court has agreed to 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.
Confirmation of the hearing follows an earlier High Court ruling [Friday 25 November 2011] rejecting permission for a legal challenge. The organisations are now asking the High Court to reverse the decision and allow a hearing into the legal challenges as soon as possible.
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.
The legal challenges centre around 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 comes 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’s executive director Andy Atkin, said: “We strongly believe government plans to abruptly slash solar subsidies are illegal, we hope the High Court agrees to allow our case to be heard as soon as possible.
“We’ve also asked the High Court to cap our potential costs. International rules say this should be allowed in public interest cases on the environment – we can’t afford to bring a challenge if we face unlimited liability for the other side’s legal fees.
“In a time of economic gloom, the solar industry has been one of the UK’s brightest success stories, enabling homes and communities across the country to free themselves from expensive fossil fuels.
“It’s short sighted for ministers to move the goalposts and prematurely pull the subsidy – this will cost tens of thousands of jobs, bankrupt businesses and reduce Treasury income by up to £230m a year.”