UK: Government refused Supreme Court solar appeal

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Today’s decision appears to be legal confirmation that the government has made a mess of attempts to rapidly cut feed in tariff rates for photovoltaics, from GBP0.43/kWh (US$0.68) to GBP0.21p/kWh (US$0.33). Photovoltaic capacity has been installed at great haste in recent months, with the U.K. hitting the one gigawatt (GW) installed capacity milestone late last month.

Environmental NGO Friends of the Earth, which had brought the case before the courts initially late last year, has celebrated the ruling that the sudden cuts were illegal. Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: "This is the third court that’s ruled that botched Government solar plans are illegal – a landmark decision which will prevent Ministers causing industry chaos with similar subsidy cuts in future."

The key issue in the High Court and subsequent courts’ ruling is that the government hoped to make the FIT cuts on December 12, 11 days before the official consultation period closed.

Two solar firms, Solarcentury and HomeSun were also involved in the legal action.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has also welcomed the legal ruling, however cautioned that with the higher FIT payments for installations up until March 3 may put undue stress of the FIT budget. The buget is constrained under a government policy at the moment, and The STA’s Paul Barwell said that he has "serious concerns" that the FIT budget may not be sufficient to continue to support photovoltaics.

"It is vital that the solar industry receives sufficient support, or we risk losing good quality firms over the next year. That will be against a backdrop of new and substantial public subsidies to the oil and gas sector," said Barwell.