Today was a big day for the solar industry as Friends of the Earth and two solar companies won the right to take the government to court.
This action was needed after the government proposed slashing financial support for small-scale solar energy production by more than 50%.
The legal challenges focus on 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 came 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.
Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge to cuts in solar incentives is part of its Final Demand campaign, which is calling for energy we can all afford and a public inquiry into the power and influence of the Big Six energy companies.
Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“We’re delighted the High Court has given the go-ahead to our legal challenge – we believe Government plans to abruptly slash solar subsidies are not only unfair, but illegal.
“These proposals have already had a disastrous impact on the solar industry – fledgling clean businesses have had the rug pulled from under their feet and a shadow hangs over thousands of jobs.
“Ministers must change direction and put the solar industry at the forefront of building a clean safe future.”
Birmingham Friends of the Earth are hoping that this action will also help safeguard the future of the award-winning Birmingham Energy Savers project which was recently recognised on the global stage for its achievements in retro-fitting homes in the city.
With local solar firms worried about the effects on their businesses and local charities concerned about rocketing bills leading more people into fuel poverty, this legal challenge is an important step on the way to ensuring a thriving solar industry and the success of community schemes to reduce fuel bills for the most vulnerable in Birmingham.
More than 17,000 people have asked the Government to keep supporting clean British energy – join them now at www.foe.co.uk/finaldemand
Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to:
• Maintain existing tariff payments to all qualifying solar schemes completed by 1 April 2011.
• To extend the consultation period.
Today’s oral hearing was a re-application for a judicial review. The High Court rejected initial applications to challenge the Government last month [Friday 25 November 2011].
Friends of the Earth isn’t opposed to solar tariff payments being cut in line with the falling costs of installing solar panels – and it was always envisaged that payments would be reduced over time when we first campaigned for the scheme. But the environmental campaigning charity says the scale and sudden, unplanned nature of this cut will devastate the industry.