Reaction to DECC’s FiT appeal defeats

As energy secretary Ed Davey, said, the legal defeat in the Supreme Court would “draw a line under the case”, industry leaders and commentators gave their reaction to the end of a sorry saga for his government department.

Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins, said the ruling to refuse DECC leave to appeal would stop a repeat of the chaos and confusion that threatened to wreck a booming green market.

He added: “This is the third court that’s ruled that botched government solar plans are illegal – a landmark decision which will prevent ministers causing industry chaos with similar subsidy cuts in future.

“The Coalition must now get on with the urgent task of restoring confidence in UK solar power.

“The government recently pledged a huge increase in solar by the end of the decade; it must now spell out how it is going to achieve this.

“Investing in clean British energy will create thousands of new jobs and help reduce our reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports.”

And Jeremy Leggett, chairman of fellow successful litigant Solarcentury, said: “The Supreme Court has confirmed that the government simply has no grounds to appeal the decision that its handling of solar Feed-in tariffs was illegal.

“This final step in the legal process has wasted much needed time and money and now we, the renewables industry, simply want to get on with creating our clean energy future. Renewables can only play the pivotal role necessary to deliver a new green economy if we have a stable market and investor confidence backed by lawful, predictable and carefully considered policy.

“I hope the government is now clear that it will be held to account if they try to act illegally and push through unlawful policy changes. We would much prefer not to have taken this path but ministers gave us no choice.

“Our hope now is that we can work together again to restore the thriving jobs-rich solar sector that has been so badly undermined by government actions.”

Daniel Green, ceo of HomeSun, who also joined the successful legal challenge, said: “We are delighted to hear that the Supreme Court has refused the government permission to appeal. This now finally puts an end to DECC’s Feed-in Tariff fiasco, which they commenced on 31st October.

“Unfortunately however, this does not repair the damage to the industry which has now been decimated and a huge opportunity for this country squandered.

“What has been particularly disappointing is that Ed Davey, who was not involved at the time of the consultation or the subsequent appeal, failed to have the strength to reverse DECC’s decision to cut the tariff and continued to appeal in vain against his predecessor’s law-breaking. He will now be branded a weak loser whereas he could have been seen as a powerful champion of industry and innovation.

“We at HomeSun now hope that he will turn his attention to making other initiatives such as RHI and The Green Deal really work and that he’ll have the strength to continue to support it even if it becomes a success.

“Six energy companies, representing ninety-nine per cent of British energy bills, appear to work in unison with DECC but HomeSun will continue to stand-up for the British energy bill payer wherever we see injustice.”

In a statement, energy and climate change secretary, Edward Davey, said: “We are disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court not to grant permission to hear this case. But the Court’s decision draws a line under the case. We will now focus all our efforts on ensuring the future stability and cost effectiveness of solar and other microgeneration technologies for the many, not the few.”

However, David Hunt, a director with Eco Environments which has offices across the UK, said: “The Supreme Court has reached the right decision, but the greatest shame is that the government refused to back down weeks ago.

“By blindly pursuing their appeal bid all the way to the highest court they have caused untold damage to the solar industry and left their much trumpeted green credentials in tatters.

“The government now needs to heed the lessons and understand that they need to abide by due process of law like the rest of the population.

“Memories are short but legal precedent long-lived. We must never find ourselves in the situation we have been in with the feed-in-tariff chaos. The solar industry is one of the most exciting and dynamic sectors in the UK economy, creating many thousands of jobs when many sectors are looking to make cutbacks.

“The government now has a moral obligation to restore certainty to our industry and start to rebuild its own reputation with businesses and consumers.”

Phil McVan, managing director of Myriad CEG Power, added: “The government has been in the wrong over this from the start and they knew it, which begs the question why did they continue this long drawn out legal battle?

“Either they simply don’t like being proved wrong or, a cynic might say, they did it deliberately to delay the market.

“Ultimately, the industry will now have to stand on its own two feet in terms of the cost of electricity production and be able to generate power at the same cost as using fossil fuels, when at the moment it costs double.

“But it could have done without the crippling affects which the months of uncertainty have created.”

Caroline Flint MP, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “This ruling has exposed the chaos and incompetence at the heart of the Department for Energy and Climate Change. For months, it’s been the same old story: broken promises on the environment; and Liberal Democrats propping up a Tory-led Government doing the wrong thing for the economy and the wrong thing for the future of Britain.

“This ruling proves, once and for all, that the government’s cuts to solar power are not just bad for the public, bad for jobs and growth, and bad for the environment, but unlawful. Solar power has a vital role to play in creating a more diverse, secure, low-carbon energy mix that will protect consumers from volatile fossil fuel prices. The government must get behind solar power and back families and businesses trying to do the right thing by the environment and protect themselves from soaring energy bills.”

Solar Trade Association chief executive Paul Barwell commented: “This marks the end of this particular turbulent chapter for the UK solar sector. We welcome the certainty for those who invested and installed since 12th December. However, the extra money DECC will now have to commit leaves us with serious concerns about the remaining FiT budget, which remains constrained under the Levy Control Framework.

”It is vital that the solar industry receives sufficient support, or we risk losing good quality firms over the next year. That will be against a backdrop of new and substantial public subsidies to the oil and gas sector.”

Alan John, head of renewable energy at law firm Osborne Clarke, said: “Many in the industry will welcome the closure that this news brings.

“For the first time in 4 months, the UK solar industry can look forward and plan for the future without this underlying uncertainty. In general, I think that most in the industry will want to put the last few damaging months behind them and get on with building their businesses.

“The relationship between the industry and DECC is crucial and both sides now need to focus on making that as constructive as possible. In particular, the industry needs to continue to lobby hard for non-tariff related support from the government to promote the solar industry and embed the technology as a mainstream part of the UK’s energy mix.”

Griff Thomas, technical manager for microgeneration and renewables for ELECSA, said: “At long last we welcome this line in the sand that allows the solar PV industry to move on to a brighter future. The court case around the FiT reduction was becoming a distraction to industry’s ability to promote the real benefits of solar PV and, this also led to a ‘gold rush’ of applications to meet the artificial deadlines created by the government’s decisions around the issue. We now look forward to working with the government to promote a sustainable future for the industry based upon greater uptake of MCS certification now that the uncertainty is over.” 

Mark Elliott, director, Energeno, said: “In the week of the millionaires and ‘granny tax’ Budget, the government’s final defeat on the early reduction of the FiT means a windfall for the lucky thousands of people who have benefitted from both a reduction of cost of solar PV installation kit and also the extended higher rate of FIT.”  

This decision will lead to many thousands more kicking themselves that they didn’t get their system fitted during the period of uncertainty.  But I firmly believe that with small behavioural changes similar return on investment (ROI) is available for householders installing under the new regime.

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