The Local Government Association (LGA) said ministers had “undermined confidence” in their “green agenda”.
David Parsons, Chairman of the LGA Environment Board, said: “By rushing through cuts to subsidies at such short notice, Government caused the cancellation of thousands of solar panel installations and undermined confidence in its green agenda.
“Councils were left with little choice but to let down thousands of tenants who were counting on them for help, while losing tens of thousands of pounds tied up in deposits with contractors.
“While some of the damage caused by the clumsy handling of this cut cannot be undone, we now urge Government to rethink subsidy cuts which in their current form would mean those in social housing receive a lower rate of subsidy.
“It is simply not right that those most in need of help paying for the installation of solar panels are entitled to the least support.
“Families in council and housing association homes have to pay, through their electricity bills, to subsidise the installation of solar panels for others. It is only right that they – along with community groups – are entitled to a fair share of that money too.
“Government now needs to rethink its proposals and develop a system of subsidy which is workable, affordable and fair.”
Consumer group Consumer Focus said a “realistic timetable” was needed.
Liz Laine, energy expert at Consumer Focus, said: “We think cuts in the solar subsidy are necessary. But they should not be made at the speed planned by the Government and the scale of the cuts needs further consideration – particularly for social housing and community schemes.
“Six weeks is clearly not long enough to make such major changes and many consumers who had already signed contracts would have lost out under these moves. With such a big investment people need certainty.”
She added: “Today’s decision will undoubtedly see a major push from installers to capitalise on installing at the current subsidy rate.
“We’d urge consumers to make sure they think through any decisions, not be rushed by installers, and know their rights before they sign a contract.”
Howard Johns, chairman of the Solar Trade Association, said: “It’s great to have a decision today that the Government have acted unlawfully because most of us felt that, but no-one has come out and said it. But now they have it is a big victory.
“I think it was a black and white case. It was pretty obvious this was unlawful. We are one step closer to having some clarity – we’ll have to see what happens if there’s an appeal.”
YouGen greets news from the High Court with mixed feelings
“We are pleased to hear that the High Court has declared DECC’s consultation on the feed-in tariff ‘legally flawed’ and subject to judicial review,” said YouGen founder Cathy Debenham. “91 per cent of respondents to our recent survey declared that a cut off date that preceded the closing date of the consultation was unacceptable, and it’s good to see government held to account on this.
“However, we hope there won’t be a long and damaging period of limbo as a result of this decision. Both consumers and industry need to know where they stand, so they can plan and move forward.”
Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier, has today commented on the court ruling on the Government’s emergency changes to the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) support scheme for solar panel installations.
Having first set-up its own scheme for small-scale renewable energy generators in 2004, Good Energy is a pioneering feed-in tariff service provider now supporting a community of around 10,000 generators spread around the UK.
Juliet Davenport, CEO & founder of Good Energy, says:
“Many people will welcome today’s ruling, but there remains an urgent need to get to the nub of the issue which is reforming the FIT so that it doesn’t keep becoming a victim of its own success.
“The proposed minimum energy efficiency standard for new projects, for example, has nothing to do with energy efficiency and everything to do with stopping new entrants to the scheme. That barrier is being put there because the long-term structure of the policy isn’t right.
“The FIT is the best tool we have for delivering the kind of decentralised energy system we need in this country to tackle the energy challenges we face. It gives people control over their energy bills and helps them reduce their carbon emissions. Let’s see the Government commit to the scheme’s future by focussing on the issues that really matter.”
“We also welcome the thorough analysis of the feed-in tariff process and proposals in the consultation from the Energy and Climate Change and Environmental Audit Committees.
“We have been calling for DECC to uncap the FITs budget, extend the reference date for the introduction of the new tariff, set up a generous community tariff and drop the requirement for buildings to reach EPC (energy performance certificate) level of C to qualify for FITS.
“We are delighted that these are all issues addressed by the committees and hope that DECC will take them on board. Given that DECC did not do a sufficient appraisal before including the feed-in tariffs in its spending review and capping the FITs budget, we trust that they will revisit that decision and make more money available for this popular technology which is rapidly falling in price.
“The report describes the proposal to limit access to the feed-in tariff to the less than 10 per cent of households that meet the highest energy efficiency standards as ‘fatal’. It would be thoroughly inequitable. We hope that DECC will act on the recommendation and remove the requirement – it is important that a tax payer funded incentive is available to all, not just the wealthiest.
“One of the great benefits of the feed-in tariff (in my view) is the way it has enabled community groups to form and raise finance for local renewable energy schemes, which has multiple benefits of getting people interested in energy, giving them ownership of local energy schemes, and getting solar panels and wind turbines onto community buildings. This was threatened by the proposed lower rates, and particularly by the multi-installation rates. We hope that DECC will act on the recommendation to ‘design a community tariff immediately that takes into account the wider impacts on community groups’.”