SNP welcomes legal ruling on feed-in tarrifs

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The UK’s govt’s appeal against an earlier legal ruling in the High Court against the Dept of Energy and Climate change has been turned down by the Court of Appeal in London.  The government had introduced a cut to the amount paid to solar electricity generators for electricty which was returned to the grid.  The cuts affected all solar panels installed after December 12 last year, the UK government had reduced the amount paid from just over 43p per kilowatt-hour generated to 21p per kilowatt-hour.  

Critics said that the cut was introduced propitiously and without proper consultation.  Originally the government had planned to introduce the cut from April 1 2012, but in October 2011 announced that the cuts would be introduced on December 12.  Representatives of the solar panel industry took the government to court, winning a ruling against the Dept of Energy and Climate Change.  The High Court found that the government’s decision was “legally flawed”. The government appealed against the ruling, but in a judgement handed down on Wednesday, the government’s appeal was dismissed.  

The rulings will not affect households which installed panels before the changes were introduced on 12 December 2012.

Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said that the present level of feed-in tarrifs was unsustainable.  A spokesperson for the Dept of Energy and Climate change said that the government would seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The government’s decision not to drop the case has been criticised by the CBI.  CBI director general John Cridland said:  “The judgement should be used to draw a line under this saga, which saw the government scoring a spectacular own goal and confidence in the renewables sector undermined.”

The ruling means consumers and households with solar panels cannot be certain what subsidy they will receive for any panels installed since 12 December last year.  Solar panel manufacturers and installers fear that jobs in the industry may be put at risk as a result of the UK government’s action.

SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith welcomed Wednesday’s decision by the Court of Appeal to reject the government’s challenge to the previous ruling.  attempt to slash payments from the feed-in-tariff scheme, putting at risk thousands of jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Mr Smith had previously spoken out against the coalition’s plan, calling the consultation “nothing more than a tick-box exercise”, whilst also raising his concerns with Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne.

Commenting on today’s ruling, Mr Smith called on Mr Huhne to abandon the UK government’s legal action, and said:

“This decision is a very positive one and will be welcomed not only by those employed in the sector but also by homeowners wishing to install PV solar panels in their own homes.

“Whilst this result is a victory for the sector and for common sense, the UK Government’s decision to take the case to the Supreme Court will only continue the uncertainty for the thousands of jobs at stake.  Two courts have already ruled that the plans are illegal, it is high time the Mr Huhne shelves his ridiculous plans.

“Feed in tariffs are not the ideal way to fund the renewables revolution, but this cut by the UK government will see funding for supplying the national grid slashed by half at a time when the European Climate Foundation is telling us that spending on updating the grid needs to double.”