Court rules against government

Industry leaders have called on the Government to now draw a line under the Feed-in Tariff fiasco after the Court of Appeal today unanimously ruled Secretary of State Chris Huhne had overstepped his powers with plans to rush through sudden cuts to solar tariff payments.
Now campaign group Friends of the Earth, which helped bring the original successful court challenge, say any Government move to appeal again to the Supreme Court will create yet more uncertainty for solar firms.
And the organisation has urged defeated Ministers to concentrate on safeguarding the industry rather than wasting more time and money on further appeals.
Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “This landmark judgement confirms that devastating Government plans to rush through cuts to solar payments are illegal – and will prevent Ministers from causing industry chaos with similar cuts in future.
“The Government must now take steps to safeguard the UK’s solar industry and the 29,000 jobs still facing the chop.
“Ministers must abandon plans to tighten the screw on which homes qualify for solar payments – and use the massive tax revenues generated by solar to protect the industry.
“Helping more people to plug into clean British energy will help protect cash-strapped households from soaring fuel bills.”
John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said the Government should not take the case to the Supreme Court as now confirmed, and added: “The judgement should be used to draw a line under this saga, which saw the Government scoring a spectacular own goal and confidence in the renewables sector undermined.
“We must bring certainty back to this high growth sector. Looking to the future, the Government should guarantee the rate applicants will receive earlier in the process, for all the technologies covered by the feed-in-tariff, to give buyers the confidence to proceed.”
Juliet Davenport, CEO of Good Energy, added: “The credibility of the way the FIT budget is set has been seriously damaged, and the government must reform the tariff to prevent this boom-and-bust situation from happening again.
“FIT is a great way to give people more control of their energy bills, so it’s no surprise that the scheme has been popular – it should not be a victim of its own success.
“Now the government is looking at other ways of reducing uptake such as proposed minimum energy efficiency standard which will be unattainable for many households. The government’s decision to provide a replacement deadline on 3rd March at least means we know what tariff projects registered before 1st April will get – and will probably result in another mini-goldrush in the next few weeks.
“But we still don’t know what support projects registered after April 1st will receive.”
Solar Trade Association chairman Howard Johns is calling for a line to be drawn under the affair to allow the industry to get back to business.
He said: “Hopefully today’s result will draw this episode to a close, and mean that one of the only growing sectors in the UK can get back to work.
“The Government’s appeal against the original ruling has created huge uncertainty for the thousands of small businesses in the sector, and we sincerely hope that the Government chooses not to take this further by appealing against this result.”
David Hunt, a director with leading renewable energy company Eco Environments, said: “This is an almighty kick in the teeth for the Government, but a fantastic result for consumers who have either gone ahead with an installation since December 12 or are keen to do so now.
“The phones have already started ringing with homeowners keen to cash in on this mini gold rush. Given that the cost of Solar PV installations has dropped dramatically since December 12, consumers can now achieve breathtaking returns on investment.”
The full consultation on the FIT rates for solar and other technologies is due for release on February 9 which should give a clear picture of the rates from April this year and beyond.
David added: “We would also hope that the consultation will confirm whether or not homes considering an installation from April will need an Energy Performance Certificate of Grade C or above to claim the top FIT payment – or be subject to a much lower rate.
“We trust that after the fiasco of recent months over the introduction of lower FIT rates, the Government will heed the warnings of the solar industry and remove the stringent EPC requirement for homes which would price the majority of the population out of even considering an investment in solar technology.”
And Phil McVan, MD of Myriad CEG Power, added: “The stop, start nature of what has happened in the solar industry as a result of the Government’s actions is exactly what businesses don’t want at a time when they are trying to juggle limited resources and lack of credit from the banks with meeting green energy commitments.
“It has meant people have been unable to plan effectively for the future because they don’t know when the sands are going to shift.
“The Government should be working to minimise the damage to the industry, ensure that poor and disadvantaged communities don’t miss out on the real benefits of solar energy and that robust businesses have an environment in which they can prosper and help the UK meet its green energy targets.”
Renewable Energy Association chief executive Gaynor Hartnell supported the calls for the Government to move on.
“The Government’s action and the subsequent court case had together thrown the solar industry into a state of extreme uncertainty, which was most regrettable,” she said. “We now want to put this behind us as swiftly as possible, and work with Government and supporters to secure a larger budget for small scale renewable energy generation.
“In reality, Government is well aware that it would be incredibly unwise to reduce payments to renewable energy producers after they had commissioned their projects, as it knows what immense damage that would do.”