Supreme Court rejects DECC’s appeal

After the Supreme Court today rejected the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) appeal over premature cuts to the feed-in tariff scheme for solar photovoltaics the UK solar industry has breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Today a panel of Supreme Justices refused Government leave to appeal an earlier High Court ruling that the cuts were unlawful. This means that all systems installed between December 12, 2011 and March 3, 2012 will receive the higher feed-in tariff rates for 25 years.

The decision made this morning is final, and the Department will not be taking the appeal any further. In fact just last week at the Solar Power UK Roadshow in Suffolk, Alasdair Grainger from DECC’s feed-in tariff team confirmed that they would not take the case to the European court if the case was lost.

“The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has refused permission to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to appeal the Court of Appeal decision in this matter,” read an official statement.

“The Court of Appeal upheld the Administrative Court's judgment that it is not within the power conferred on the Secretary of State by the Energy Act 2008 to reduce the tariff paid for electricity generated by small-scale solar photovoltaic generators, in respect of installations becoming eligible for payment prior to the coming into force of the modification.”

“Permission to appeal was refused because the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time, bearing in mind that the case has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal and because paragraph 16 of the Court of Appeal's judgment disposes of the proposed argument based on the subject of the challenge being only a proposal,” read the ruling.

Responding the Supreme Court’s decision, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said “We are disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court not to grant permission to hear this case.  But the Court’s decision draws a line under the case.  We will now focus all our efforts on ensuring the future stability and cost effectiveness of solar and other microgeneration technologies for the many, not the few.”

The decision marks the end of months of court wrangling between the Department, Friends of the Earth and two solar companies. As a result of the ruling, the Supreme Court ordered DECC to pay the costs of the other parties.

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 Coalition must now get on with the urgent task of restoring confidence in UK solar power.

“The Government recently pledged a huge increase in solar by the end of the decade; it must now spell out how it is going to achieve this.

“Investing in clean British energy will create thousands of new jobs and help reduce our reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports.”

While the new Solar Trade Association Chief Executive, Paul Barwell announced: “This marks the end of this particular turbulent chapter for the UK solar sector. We welcome the certainty for those who invested and installed since December 12. However, the extra money DECC will now have to commit leaves us with serious concerns about the remaining FIT budget, which remains constrained under the Levy Control Framework.

“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.”

Jeremy Leggett, Chairman of Solarcentury, said: “The Supreme Court has today confirmed that the Government simply has no grounds to appeal the decision that its handling of solar feed-in tariffs was illegal.

“This final step in the legal process has wasted much needed time and money and now we, the renewables industry, simply want to get on with creating our clean energy future. Renewables can only play the pivotal role necessary to deliver a new green economy if we have a stable market and investor confidence backed by lawful, predictable and carefully considered policy.

“I hope the Government is now clear that it will be held to account if they try to act illegally and push through unlawful policy changes. We would much prefer not to have taken this path but Ministers gave us no choice. Our hope now is that we can work together again to restore the thriving jobs-rich solar sector that has been so badly undermined by Government actions,” Leggett continued.

Alan John, Head of Renewable Energy at law firm Osborne Clarke, commented: “Many in the industry will welcome the closure that today’s news brings. For the first time in four months, the UK solar industry can look forward and plan for the future without this underlying uncertainty.

“In general, I think that most in the industry will want to put the last few damaging months behind them and get on with building their businesses.

“The relationship between the industry and DECC is crucial and both sides now need to focus on making that as constructive as possible. In particular, the industry needs to continue to lobby hard for non-tariff related support from the Government to promote the solar industry and embed the technology as a mainstream part of the UK’s energy mix.”

Let us know your thoughts on this news by using the comments section below.

Additional reporting by Emma Hughes

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