Published on December 15th, 2011 | by Ravinder Casley Gera1
UK NGO Wins Right to Challenge Cuts in Solar Subsidies
December 15th, 2011 by Ravinder Casley Gera
A coalition of a leading UK environmental NGO and two solar energy producers have successfully petitioned the UK’s high court to urgently review a planned cut in the feed-in-tariff for solar energy, the Guardian reports.
As multiple studies have shown, feed-in tariffs — set prices that utilities must pay for renewable energy — are the best way to drive growth in renewables, subsidising their development without direct investment by taxpayers. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that feed-in tariffs are responsible for the installation of three-quarters of world solar photovoltaic energy installations.
But the UK’s coalition Government has proposed cutting the feed-in tariff for solar energy by 50% — halving the price solar energy producers receive for their product. This is expected to severely reduce the number of new solar installations. An alliance of solar firms and NGOs known as “Cut Don’t Kill” reckon the cuts could cost up to 29,000 jobs.
Although the Government is still consulting on the proposals, it has said that any cut in the tariff will apply to all solar panels installed before last Monday, December 12. As a result, the government website where owners register their installations crashed last week under the strain of people rushing to register before the deadline.
Now a leading UK environmental NGO, Friends of the Earth, has successfully petitioned the high court — a little like the US Supreme Court, though not as powerful — to consider stopping the cut.
Along with two solar producers, Solarcentury and HomeSun, FoE argued that establishing a date for a cut to go into effect when the Government is still officially consulting on the tariff is “premature and unlawful”. The High Court agreed, with the judge ordering an “urgent review” of the deadline next Tuesday.
The court is unlikely to overturn the cut itself, but will consider ordering a later deadline. “There is a decision which is susceptible to challenge, even if consultation leaves open the possibility that a different date may ultimately be chosen” for the cut, the judge ruled.
Friends of the Earth director Andy Atkins said: “We’re delighted the high court has given the go-ahead to our legal challenge — we believe the government plans to abruptly slash solar subsidies are not only unfair, but illegal.”
For more on feed-in tariffs and how they’ve driven renewable energy in Europe, see America and Germany Getting Their Clean Energy Just Desserts.