Monday, 30 January 2012

By: Neil Ritchie, Local Business Unit Manager, LV Drives at ABB 

You might be surprised to hear that the Government and the solar industry have been at loggerheads over the last few months. The two have been fighting over the solar Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) and the battle has gone to both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Both courts have unsurprisingly ruled that the Government’s plans to bring in a reduction to solar FITs before the end of the consultation period is unlawful. But the Government is now seeking to take its appeal to The Supreme Court.
The background to the case is that the DECC has proposed to reduce the amount of payback for small-scale solar projects up to 4 kW in size, suggesting this should be set at 21p/kWh, down from 43.3p/kWh. However, after a case was brought forward by Friends of the Earth and two solar companies, a high court judge ruled that to rush through cuts to Feed-In Tariff (FIT) payments were ‘legally flawed’.

The appeal case went to court on Friday the 12th January and the judges have taken until now to reach a unanimous decision to uphold the original ruling. This means that, subject to the outcome of any appeal to The Supreme Court, solar FITs will remain at 43.3 p/kWh until March 3rd 2012, when it will be reduced to 21p.

The government’s argument is that the current high tariffs for solar PV are not sustainable and changes need to be made in order to protect the budget. This may be true, but surely the Government can simply make more money available to the scheme through the additional taxes it is generating?

With options running out, “The Government must now take steps to safeguard the UK’s solar industry and the 29,000 jobs still facing the chop,” according to Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins. “Ministers must abandon plans to tighten the screw on which homes qualify for solar payments – and use the massive tax revenues generated by solar to protect the industry.”

Personally I think, the Government needs to accept the court’s decision and get on with its legal obligations. I remember a pledge being made by the Coalition Government at the very beginning of them coming to power - “to be the greenest Government ever”. Now is the time to live up to this pledge and support a flourishing industry, instead of restricting its growth.


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