The government is now seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Friends of the Earth says the move will create yet more uncertainty for solar firms and after two courts have ruled their move illegal is urging ministers to concentrate on safeguarding the industry rather than wasting more time and money on further appeals.
The High Court ruled shortly before Christmas that government plans to cut payments for any solar scheme completed after 12 December – 11 days before the official consultation closed – were unlawful. The judgement followed legal challenges brought by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms, Solarcentury and HomeSun, last month.
Today’s judgement will prevent ministers rushing through cuts to Feed-in Tariff payments in future, restoring some confidence to the UK’s clean energy industry. But Friends of the Earth warns that unless ministers change other parts of their solar subsidy proposals, up to 29,000 jobs could be lost.
Friends of the Earth is urging ministers to find more money – paid for from tax payments the industry generates – to safeguard the long-term stability of the solar industry. The environmental campaigning charity is also calling for crucial amendments to proposed government solar payment changes, including re-examining over-strict energy efficiency rules that will prevent 90 per cent of houses from claiming solar subsidies.
Today’s ruling means that, subject to any further appeal to the Supreme Court, solar tariff payments will remain at 43.3p (p/kWh) until 3 March 2012 when – following government moves last week – they will fall to 21 pence.
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 Ggvernment 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.”