Solar panel tariff appeal loss for government

Workmen installing solar panels The government had said the subsidy cut would ensure the scheme carried on in the future

The government has failed to get permission to appeal to the Supreme Court over its plan to cut subsidies for solar panels on homes.

The UK's highest court said it could not challenge a High Court ruling that blocked the halving of payments to households generating solar energy.

Critics argued the plan to bring the lower rate in in December was too short notice and lacked proper consultation.

The lower tariff will now apply to panels installed after 1 April.

Campaigners argued that the plans had caused huge uncertainty in the industry, which employs tens of thousands of people.

Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins described the ruling as "a landmark decision which will prevent ministers causing industry chaos with similar subsidy cuts in future".

The government said the court's decision drew 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," said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey.


What the ruling means

Anybody who had a domestic solar scheme finished before 12 December 2011 gets the old rate of 43.3p per kilowatt hour for the full 25 years of the scheme. That was not at issue in this case.

Now that the government has lost its appeal, anyone who had a scheme finished between 12 December 2011 and 2 March 2012 will also still get the full 43.3p/kwh for the whole 25 years of their scheme.

Installations finished between 3 March and 31 March temporarily get the old higher rate until 1 April when it is reduced to 21p/kwh.

Schemes finished after 1 April will only get the reduced rate of 21p/ kwh.

Under the feed-in tariffs programme, people in the UK with solar panels are paid for the electricity they generate.

The new tariff of 21p per kilowatt hour, down from the current 43.3p/kwh, had been expected to come into effect for panels finished after 1 April, but in October the government said it would be paid to anyone who installed their solar panels after 12 December 2011.

The government announced a consultation on the proposals which closed on 23 December.

The High Court ruled that changing the tariffs before the end of an official consultation period was "legally flawed".

Upholding that ruling, the Supreme Court said the government's appeal "does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time".

The court's decision now means that all domestic installations finished before 3 March this year will still get the higher 43.3p rate.

Installations finished between 3 March and 31 March temporarily get the old higher rate until 1 April then it is reduced to 21p.

The legal challenge was initiated by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms, Solarcentury and HomeSun.

Caroline Flint MP, Labour's shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: "Today's ruling proves, once and for all, that the government's cuts to solar power are not just bad for the public, bad for jobs and growth, and bad for the environment, but unlawful."

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