Legal warning over cuts to renewables

29th July 2015


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  • Generation ,
  • Renewable ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Central government

Author

Keith Grant

Experts have warned of potential legal problems with the government's plans to cut subsidies for onshore wind and solar arrays.

The consultation on altering the financial support for solar photovoltaic installations is “unfair, contrary to government’s own guidelines concerning consultation and potentially in breach of your legal duties in administrative law,” according to a letter sent to energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd by Jake White, legal adviser at Friends of the Earth.

He points out that case law has established fundamental requirements for consultation, in particular in relation to respondents having adequate time to respond. This is supported by the government’s own consultation principles, which state: “Timeframes for consultation should be proportionate and realistic… where the consultation spans all or part of a holiday period, policy makers should consider what if any impact there may be and take appropriate mitigating action.”

The energy and climate department (Decc) published the six-week consultation after parliament rose for summer recess and during the school holidays when many people are away, the letter points. It calls for Rudd to extend the consultation by four weeks.

Decc had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, John Gilbert, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, warned that international energy investors could pursue the UK government for compensation following the decision to end the renewables obligation (RO) for onshore wind a year early.

Similar changes to renewable subsidy schemes by governments in Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic have led to investors taking legal action under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a cross-border agreement governing the relationships between international governments and energy investors.

“The UK government has attempted to be clever by introducing changes to the RO through primary legislation, which has the backing of parliament and therefore cannot be challenged through judicial review,” he said.

However, the ECT allows investors to seek damages on the basis that their investments have been undermined and devalued, he said.

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