Our solar legal case: why we're in court

Oliver Hayes

21 December 2011

One of the things I’ve learned in three years working at Friends of the Earth is how quickly things can change.

Thanks to our campaigning, householders and communities can get cash for generating green electricity. If you put solar panels on your roof, your energy company pays you for the electricity you produce. Simples.

But on 31 October the Government suddenly announced changes that pull the rug from under this scheme.

Our campaigners and legal team are battling it out in the High Court to try to change the Government’s plans.

To give you a better idea of just how bonkers those plans are, imagine you enter a running race. You do all the training, get stronger, fitter, faster and with a month to go you’re in the shape of your life. The start line can’t come soon enough.

Then you get a phone call. It’s the race organisers warning you’ll be disqualified for not showing up.

You: "But the race hasn’t happened yet – it’s in a month’s time."
Them: "Er, not any more, we rearranged it. It’s now last weekend."
You: "What! When did you decide this?"
Them: "Well, we haven’t completely decided anything. But when we do, we’ll almost certainly decide it was last weekend. If that is what we end up deciding, then you didn’t show up. So you’re disqualified."

That’s pretty much what’s happened in the saga of the Government’s solar plans.

On 31 October the Government issued a consultation – due to close on 23 December – proposing new rates for the solar cash-back.

Problem is, the consultation proposes that the new rates apply from 12 December – 11 days before the consultation actually ends.

Friends of the Earth thinks this is not just bonkers, but illegal.

In the real world, these Government shenanigans have caused thousands of planned or unfinished solar projects to be shelved - including ones that would have slashed energy bills for schools or people in social housing.

So that’s why we’re in court - trying to get solar plans back on track so people can generate clean, green energy for years to come.

Although, knowing this job, by tomorrow everything will have changed.

Ollie Hayes, Campaigns team

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