UPDATED: Government appeals Supreme Court FITs decision

Decc has submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court opposing a ruling which found its proposed plans to cut Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) subsides were unlawful.

A Decc spokesperson said: 
“We respectfully disagree with the Court of Appeal’s decision on Feed-in Tariffs and we have today lodged an application with the Supreme Court seeking that court’s permission to appeal. We are now awaiting a decision of the Supreme Court on permission.

“We want to see the available funding spread as far and wide as possible making FITs a scheme for the many not a scheme for the few, supporting sustainable jobs in solar and in a whole range of small scale renewables.”

The appeal follows legal action by Friends of the Earth and solar companies, including Solarcentury, which argued that cuts to FITs were “unlawful” as the proposed tariff changes were planned to come force on December 12 – before the six-week public consultation had ended.

As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that the proposed cuts were illegal and yesterday (February 21) was the last day the Government could appeal the decision.

However, solar campaigners have expressed disappointment that new energy secretary Ed Davey has made the decision to appeal to the court, arguing it undermines claims by the Government it wants to see more solar homes by 2020.

Solarcentury chairman Jeremy Leggett, said: “We have been expecting this but we hoped that Ed Davey would see sense and not take the appeal. If we are lucky this is just a cynical exercise to limit the market to March 3 and they will withdraw in a few weeks. If not, and they really are serious about a Supreme Court appeal, then the implications for the renewables industry are deeply worrying.”

Despite this, Mr Leggett said he believed it is unlikely the Government would win the appeal, describing its arguments as “weak”.

He added: “They are the same ones unanimously rejected by the Court of Appeal so I wouldn’t give them much chance of success.

“Sadly, this appeal has the whiff of farce about it. First they try to woo private capital into infrastructure; then they mismanage it; now they go to the Supreme Court to argue for sovereign default to cover their tracks. I just hope the new Secretary of State actually understands what his lawyers are doing.”

Meanwhile, many businesses have voiced concerns that the appeal is merely prolonging uncertainty for the solar, saying it is “time to move on”.

Global environmental consultancy WSP Environment & Energy, director David Symons, said: “With plans already in place to reduce tariff levels from April, and to make further incremental reductions at a later date, the Government’s time and energy would be better spent on rebuilding relationships and trust with an industry which has become increasingly cynical.”

He added that the solar sector has the potential to create jobs and accelerate flagship programmes, such as the Green Deal, saying that it is time the Government “acknowledged that it’s been heavy handed in the tariff review, commit to learning lessons from this process, and take responsibility for the jobs that are being lost as a result of its rash approach”.

This is a view echoed by the Solar Trade Association (STA), which described the appeal as “regrettable”, saying it could “prolong by several months the consumer uncertainty for installations”.

STA Chairman Howard Johns, said: “We had hoped that Decc would put an end to the disruption being caused to the sector by this court case. A win in this case – whilst unlikely – would set a very bad precedent undermining the case for investment in renewables in the UK.

“The solar sector has been struggling to cope with the number of consultations around the feed in tariff this year and the uncertainty they have caused – surely now is the time to move on from this situation.”

The fall-out from the subsidies cut has resulted in many companies discarding plans to implement solar energy in their operations – which the solar industry warns could damage the UK’s renewable credibility.

Speaking to edieEnergy yesterday, Coca Cola Enterprises public affairs and communications vice president Julian Hunt admitted that it had been forced to abandon plans to use solar on many of its facilities as the payback investment was no longer there.

Carys Matthews

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