Posts tagged with: high court

Government plans to rush through cuts to solar tariff payments are illegal, the High Court ruled today (Wednesday 21 December), following a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms – Solarcentury and HomeSun.

The court agreed that proposals to cut feed-in tariff payments for any solar scheme completed after 12 December – 11 days before the official consultation closed – were unlawful.

Friends of the Earth is urging the Government to come up with a new proposal which would allow solar payments to fall in line with reduced installation costs, while ensuring the solar industry continues to play a key part in developing a cleaner future.

The environmental campaigning charity is also calling for more money to encourage solar installations – paid for by the revenue the industry raises for the Treasury, the removal of planned restrictions that would prevent poorer households from installing solar panels and more support for community-owned schemes.

The Government’s own independent advisors say the economy must be weaned off of increasingly expensive fossil fuels like gas by investing in clean energy and slashing energy waste. Friends of the Earth’s Final Demand campaign is urging the Government to launch an investigation into the role of the Big Six energy firms in stopping people in Britain having energy we can all afford.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

“These botched and illegal plans have cast a huge shadow over the solar industry, jeopardising thousands of jobs.

“We hope this ruling will prevent Ministers rushing through damaging changes to clean energy subsidies – giving solar firms a much-needed confidence boost.

“Ministers must now come up with a sensible plan that protects the UK’s solar industry and allows cash-strapped homes and businesses to free themselves from expensive fossil fuels by plugging into clean energy.”

“Solar payments should fall in line with falling installation costs but the speed of the Government’s proposals threatened to devastate the entire industry.”

The High Court has agreed to hear applications by Friends of the Earth and two solar companies – Solarcentury and HomeSun – for permission to challenge Government plans to slash financial incentives for solar electricity on Thursday 15 December 2011.

Confirmation of the hearing follows an earlier High Court ruling [Friday 25 November 2011] rejecting permission for a legal challenge. The organisations are now asking the High Court to reverse the decision and allow a hearing into the legal challenges as soon as possible.

Friends of the Earth is also asking the High Court to cap its potential legal costs for the case. International rules specify that costs should be limited in public interest cases on the environment.

The legal challenges centre around Government plans to slash feed-in tariff subsidies – payments made to households and communities that generate green electricity through solar panels – on any installations completed after 12 December this year. The Government is currently running a consultation into feed-in tariffs – but the 12 December cut-off point comes two weeks before the consultation ends. Friends of the Earth says this premature decision is unlawful and has already led to unfinished or planned projects being abandoned.

Solar is a growing, successful industry. The premature cuts could cost up to 29,000 jobs and lose the Treasury up to £230 million a year in tax income, a report commissioned by Friends of the Earth and Cut Don’t Kill – an alliance of solar firms and consumer and environmental organisations – revealed last month. Last week construction firm Carillion warned 4,500 workers their jobs are at risk because of the Government’s proposals.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

“We strongly believe Government plans to abruptly slash solar subsidies are illegal, we hope the High Court agrees to allow our case to be heard as soon as possible.

“We’ve also asked the High Court to cap our potential costs. International rules say this should be allowed in public interest cases on the environment – we can’t afford to bring a challenge if we face unlimited liability for the other side’s legal fees.

“In a time of economic gloom, the solar industry has been one of the UK’s brightest success stories, enabling homes and communities across the country to free themselves from expensive fossil fuels.

“It’s short sighted for Ministers to move the goalposts and prematurely pull the subsidy – this will cost tens of thousands of jobs, bankrupt businesses and reduce Treasury income by up to £230m a year.”