Friends of the Earth is urging ministers to focus on putting the solar industry back on a stable footing after energy minister Greg Barker confirmed via Twitter yesterday(Tuesday 3 January 2012) that the government has decided to try to appeal a ruling that its solar cuts are illegal – at a potentially huge cost to taxpayers.
The green campaigning charity said the government must introduce a clear plan to reduce solar power payments in line with falling installation costs, rather than prolonging industry uncertainty and jeopardising jobs by pursuing an expensive legal appeal.
Following a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms Solarcentury and HomeSun just before Christmas, the High Court ruled that the government’s plans to rush through sudden cuts to solar payments – before its own consultation had ended – were illegal.
The court refused permission for an appeal on the basis that the government has no realistic prospect of winning. The deadline for lodging an appeal is 4pm today, 4 January 2012.
Friends of the Earth is also calling on ministers to reduce tariff rates in a planned way from February 2012 to protect jobs, and to increase the overall budget for the Feed-in Tariff to allow more people – including poorer households and community groups – to benefit from solar power. The group says this is possible without any additional cost to bill payers because of the increased tax revenue the scheme is generating.
Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton said:“The government’s illegal cuts to solar tariff rates have near-crippled an industry and threatened thousands of jobs.
“Trying to appeal the High Court’s ruling is an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money – the court says the government has no realistic chance of winning, and it will prolong uncertainty among solar companies just when they need reassurance.
“Ministers should accept the High Court’s decision and end business uncertainty and protect jobs with a clear plan to reduce payments from February, in line with falling installation costs.
“The government must expand the scheme overall – with all the tax revenue the scheme generates, this can be done at no extra cost to bill payers.”