Government Loses Solar Appeal
After weeks and weeks of anger, uncertainty and confusion, the war that has been raging between the Government and the solar industry has ended with the Department of Energy and Climate Change losing its appeal.
Ever since the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced their proposals to cut the feed-in tariff (Fit) scheme for solar subsidies at the end of October, the solar industry has been in limbo, with renewable energy supporters and green enthusiasts watching from the sidelines as the Government and fractions of the solar industry bitterly battled each other over FiTS.
Although DECC is threatening to drag the sorry saga out even further by taking their fight to the Supreme Court, one would hope that some level of stability has been restored – at least for the time being – thanks to a unanimous decision by three judges that the way in which the Government acted to slash solar subsidies was indeed unlawful.
By losing the appeal, DECC must stick to its contingency plan, revealed for the first time last week. It means anyone installing a solar PV system of up to 4kW will be entitled to receive the higher FiT rate of 43.3p/kWh for the 25 year duration of the scheme.
In what is likely to mirror the previous rush to get systems installed and registered before the 12 December deadline last year, anyone interested in installing a small-scale solar PV system will have up until 3 March to benefit from the higher subsidy rate, before the tariff drops to 21p/kWh. Systems registered on or after 3 March will only be eligible for the higher rate until 1 April.
With a renewed optimism, the once booming UK solar market could be set to receive its second wind, with installers and solar companies bracing themselves – at least in the short term – as people scramble to install small-scale solar PV systems over the next five and a bit weeks. However there is one stumbling block. If the Government is granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court – which has the potential to cause even more delays – the solar industry will continue to remain in limbo, essentially in no better position than it was before the Court of Appeal announcement.
Commenting on the outcome, Jeremy Leggett, chairman of Solarcentury – one of the challengers who took the Government to court – said:
“A historic judgement has been made today, one that should be welcomed by the entire renewable energy industry. Today we have reminded Government that it will be held to account when it acts illegally and tries to push through unlawful policy changes. We would much prefer not to have taken this path but ministers gave us no choice.”
Mr Leggett added that the aim now was to work together to restore confidence and stability in a market that has been “badly undermined by Government actions since October.”
Speaking just prior to the ruling, Greg Barker – the minister for energy and climate change – agreed that win or lose, the Government and the solar industry has to move forward to drive down costs and step up deployment.