Archived press release
Government goes to Court of Appeal over 'unlawful' solar panels

The Court of Appeal will today [Friday 13 January 2012] hear the Government’s challenge to last month’s High Court ruling that its solar subsidy cuts are illegal.

The move follows a High Court ruling that Government’s plans to rush through sudden cuts to solar payments were illegal, following a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms, Solarcentury and HomeSun.

The hearing will be "rolled-up" so the application for permission to appeal and - if allowed - the appeal itself will be held on the same day.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

“This appeal will only add to the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the solar industry.

"We urgently need an action plan to protect this vital sector - and the 30,000 jobs currently under threat.

"Ministers should recycle some of the multi-million pound tax revenues generated by solar firms to safeguard the industry and enable more homes, businesses and communities to switch to clean energy.

"That’s why we’re campaigning for Government to do more to protect cash-strapped households from soaring fuel bills by delivering clean British energy we can all afford."

John Swinney, Director of Business Development for Carillion - which in November last year warned 4,500 staff that their jobs are at risk because of the planned solar cuts - said:

"This appeal prolongs uncertainty and further erodes industry and consumer confidence, which has been badly damaged by the way in which the consultation process has been conducted and by the dramatic cuts to feed-in tariffs proposed by the Government.

"These cuts would make it far more difficult to attract crucial private sector investment that is needed to drive the low carbon economy - and in particular to help those in fuel poverty.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. Photographs of a Friends of the Earth's action outside the High Court last month - featuring a solar panel in a dustbin and two solar installers - are available for free.

2. Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge to cuts in solar incentives is part of its Final Demand campaign, which calls for energy we can all afford and a public inquiry into the power and influence of the Big Six energy companies.

3. The High Court said that proposals to cut payments for any solar scheme completed after 12 December – 11 days before the official consultation closed – were unlawful. A working transcript of the court proceedings is available from Friends of the Earth’s press office – 020 7566 1649.

4. On Monday 31 October 2011 the Government launched a public consultation that would see the amount of solar panels installed each year fall by between 50 and 95 per cent.

5. The Government's proposals have already had a devastating impact. Countless planned clean energy schemes have been abandoned and thousands of jobs are under threat. In December construction firm Carillion warned 4,500 workers their jobs were at risk because of the Government's proposals.

6. The Government’s decision to slash solar funding was described by the CBI as an ‘own goal’ in November. Examples of solar energy projects that have either been scrapped or are in jeopardy are available from Friends of the Earth’s press office – please call 020 7566 1649/ 07712 843 209 for more information.

7. In November last year research by Element Energy, commissioned by Friends of the Earth and the solar industry, showed that the premature cuts could threaten 29,000 jobs and lose the Treasury up to £230 million a year in tax income. It showed that additional costs to lift the cap off the scheme will be more than equalled by extra tax receipts to the exchequer and saving on unemployment benefit that would have been paid to sacked solar fitters.  

8. Calculations by Friends of the Earth and Element Energy suggest that the Treasury receives from the solar industry at least £330m per year in income taxes, corporation tax, and VAT. Friends of the Earth's calculations also reveal that any additional costs over budget that result from restoring the cut-off date to April, as well as allowing for moderate growth in the solar industry over the next three years at lower tariff rates, could be paid for by using this tax income - not increasing the costs to consumers.

9. Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to:

  • Establish a system which enables feed-in tariff payments to fall from mid February 2012, in line with the falling cost of solar technology, in a way that supports the continued growth of the industry and jobs;
  • Increase the overall budget for feed-in tariffs using tax revenues generated by jobs created by the scheme – this will enable more households to benefit from solar power.
  • Exclude housing association, school, council and other community projects from the damaging proposal to give multi-building projects even lower financial support.
  • Only require solar projects on homes to install loft and cavity wall insulation where possible - rather than imposing much tougher energy efficiency conditions which would make 9 out of 10 householders ineligible for the scheme.

10. The feed-in tariff scheme has led to the installation of more than 100,000 solar panel projects since its introduction in April 2010 and created around 27,000 new jobs, the majority of which are now under threat.

11. Almost 20,000 people have asked the Government to keep supporting clean British energy – join them now.

12. More than 200 organisations, including community groups, councils, business organisations, solar companies and NGOs have signed a statement calling on the Government to re-think its plans.

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

 

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust