Supreme Court throws out Government’s FITs appeal

The long-standing feed-in tariff (FIT) saga has at last reached conclusion - with the Supreme Court throwing out the Government's appeal against a ruling that its actions on the subsidies were "unlawful".

As a result, the solar industry has today (March 23) heralded the Supreme Court ruling, which concluded that the Government should not have prematurely cut solar FITs before the end of the consultation period, a victory.

The appeal, lodged by government earlier this year to the Court of Appeal, follows High Court action by solar company HomeSun environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) which argued government plans to cut FIT incentives by as much as 50% from December 12 2011 – and ahead of a formal review were illegal.

The High Court agreed, and a ruling was given on December 21 which stated the controversial cuts to solar incentives were “unlawful”. However, DECC, acting under former energy secretary Chris Huhne, then made the decision in January to lodge an appeal against the ruling.

As a result of this final ruling, companies and households that installed the panels before the March 4 will now receive the full payback from the tariffs. It is also hoped it will finally end months of uncertainty for the industry.

Despite welcoming the final decision, campaigners have warned that as a result of the Government’s “illegal” action that the UK’s renewable market growth has been affected and jobs already lost.

HomeSun CEO Daniel Green said while this ends the FITs “fiasco” that it does not “repair the damage to the industry which has now been decimated and a huge opportunity for this country squandered”.

This view was reciprocated by Solarcentury chairman Jeremy Leggett, who said: “This final step in the legal process has wasted much needed time and money and now we, the renewables industry, simply want to get on with creating our clean energy future.

“Renewables can only play the pivotal role necessary to deliver a new green economy if we have a stable market and investor confidence backed by lawful, predictable and carefully considered policy.”

HomeSun said it now hopes energy secretary Ed Davey turns his attention to making other initiatives such as RHI and The Green Deal work.

While Solarcentury added that it hoped government is “now clear that it will be held to account if it tries to act illegally and push through unlawful policy changes”, adding that “we would much prefer not to have taken this path but ministers gave us no choice. Our hope now is that we can work together again to restore the thriving jobs-rich solar sector that has been so badly undermined by government actions.”

Responding to the announcement, Mr Davey said “We are disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court not to grant permission to hear this case. But the Court’s decision draws a line under the case. We will now focus all our efforts on ensuring the future stability and cost effectiveness of solar and other microgeneration technologies for the many, not the few.”

Carys Matthews

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