As reported by edie back in August, four of the nation’s biggest solar firms – TGC Renewables, Solarcentury, Orta Solar Farms and Lark Energy – launched a Judicial Review against the Government, claiming that the sudden withdrawal of support for solar through the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme from Energy Secretary Ed Davey was ‘unlawful’.

Today (12 September), Friends of the Earth has submitted a letter to the court; outlining its concerns over the conduct of the review and the impact it could have on the solar industry.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently announced plans to end the RO scheme – which is the main support mechanism for renewable electricity projects in the UK – in eight months’ time, two years ahead of schedule.

Energy future

DECC says the changes to the RO scheme will save money, but the claimants say this decision to retrospectively pull the plug on the scheme could cost large numbers of jobs and will rob the solar industry of hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of business – a viewpoint that Friends of the Earth seemingly agrees with.

“We are very concerned that DECC is once again attempting what may be a retrospective change to legislation, which is why we are backing the case for Judicial Review,” explained Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton. “This is not about saying that support systems for solar cannot change, but about making sure it is done in a transparent and timely way.”

“Solar power is now the second cheapest low carbon power source, and with firm government support could be a major contributor to Britain’s energy future.

“All along the Government has underestimated the UK solar industry and the vital role it has to play in tackling climate change, and they continue to hold it back. Rather than introduce panicky changes that put jobs and investment at risk, the Government should focus on providing a sensible pathway to cost reductions, and sorting out the market for large scale rooftop solar.” 

Pulling the rug

The four solar companies, hich form part of an 800MW supply chain worth over £800m, have continued legal discussions and are working towards a court date in the autumn. It is the third time legal action has been brought against DECC’s unlawful solar policies in as many years.

Ben Cosh, managing director of TGC Renewables – one of the claimants – said: “We are delighted that Friends of the Earth have today given their support for the Judicial Review. Solar energy is tantalisingly close to becoming subsidy free, meaning cheaper bills for consumers, and we want to achieve this goal as quickly as possible. All we need from Ed Davey is stable and lawful policy, but instead he has yet again pulled the rug from under the industry’s feet.

“If successful the Judicial Review will require DECC to review the consultation process and to conduct a completely new exercise that is lawful and consults on changes rather than impose them retrospectively.”

Luke Nicholls

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