Updated: DECC to fight solar case verdict

9th January 2012


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The government's appeal against the High Court ruling that it would be illegal to impose tariff changes for solar installations retrospectively will be heard on 13 January.

The Court of Appeal has agreed to hear DECC's appeal against the ruling that proposals to impose a tariff cut on small-scale arrays fitted before the close of the consultation making the proposals, were legally flawed.

In its consultation the government outlined plans to cut payments for energy produced by smaller solar installations by 50% from 1 April and to impose this on any arrays fitted after 12 December, 11 days before the consultation closed.

Energy minister Greg Barker confirmed on Tuesday (2 January) via his Twitter page that the department would be appealing the decision, labelling the legal challenge as “distracting and damaging”.

In a statement released on 4 January, after DECC had officially lodged its reason for appeal, a spokesperson for the energy department said the High Court decision on 21 December was premature as no decision would be made on tariff cuts until after responses to the consultation had been analysed.

DECC’s main grounds for appear are, however, that swift cuts to tariffs are needed to ensure the financial viability of the scheme in the long term.

“Without an urgent reduction in the current tariffs, which give a very generous return, the budget for the scheme would be severely depleted and there would be very little available for future solar PV generators, or for other technologies,” the spokesperson stated.

“Our view is that the urgent steps we have proposed to protect the scheme for the future are fully consistent with the scheme’s statutory purpose.”

The government’s appeal has been labelled as a waste of taxpayers’ money by Friends of the Earth, which brought the legal case against the government alongside solar firms Solarcentury and HomeSun.

The environmental campaigning group argues that a further legal challenge will only increase uncertainty for the sector and calls on the government to increase the scheme’s budget rather than rush to cut tariffs.

“The government must expand the scheme – with all the tax revenue the scheme generates, this can be done at no extra cost to bill payers,” said head of campaign Andre Pendleton.

“Ministers should end business uncertainty and protect jobs with a clear plan to reduce payments from February – in line with falling installation costs.”

After reviewing DECC’s grounds for appeal, the Court of Appeal has allowed the department's petition and scheduled a hearing for Friday 13 January.

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