Solar ruling leaves sector in limbo…again

At the end of last year, the Government said the solar PV feed-in-tariff was being cut on the grounds that it was too expensive, that there was not enough money in the pot to support the rise in installations.

Yesterday, the High Court ruled not only was that action illegal, it has ordered the Government to pay the costs of the case. We can just about see the irony through our gritted teeth.

There are mistakes, and there are expensive mistakes. And then there’s the expensive mistakes which are compounded by the sheer refusal to admit them.

That’s what the Government appears to be doing at the moment. Three High Court judges unanimously agreed that the proposed cuts to feed-in-tariffs for installations completed after December 12 last year were illegal.

Their decision was on the grounds that the consultation on the proposed changes to the scheme did not close until December 23. Yet the Government has announced it plans to go to the Supreme Court, leaving the issue and the industry in limbo once more.

So yesterday’s ruling, though welcome, still leaves the sector with little clarification about what comes next. We understand that solar payments must be cut in line with falling costs but the Government must now accept that its illegal actions were putting the industry and thousands of jobs at risk. Further legal action will create ongoing uncertainty for hundreds of companies with pending contracts.

It will be interesting to see if the DECC now implements its contingency plan in the meantime to cut tariffs from April 1 for all installations completed on or after March 3, which could prompt a month-long rush similar to what happened at the beginning of December.

The industry needs stability, which is not a word which can be applied to the last few weeks. If the Government is serious about its commitment to the renewables, it should accept this ruling and get back down to the business of supporting a sector which is helping to grow the UK economy as well as creating sustainable jobs.

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