Greg Barker, the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, has today defended his decision to appeal the High Court ruling which labelled the proposed cuts to the solar feed-in tariff as “legally flawed”.

During a radio interview with BBC Surrey, the Minister rejected Chief Executive of Freetricity, Paul Williams’ claim that the Government had “promised” the 43 pence rate would remain until April, saying: “If we saw an unsustainable bubble, we would be obliged to act.”

Barker continued: “The costs of the (solar PV) subsidy are five or six times that of on-shore wind, it is by far the most expensive form of electricity at those sorts of subsidies.” 

Nick Wallis, Host of BBC Surrey Breakfast, joined Paul Williams in hailing the higher number of solar PV installations as a positive boost for Britain, increasing renewable capacity and reducing carbon output.

While the Minister agreed that solar PV had great potential, he reiterated his belief that the current level of subsidy is unsustainable, stating: “For every installation at 43 pence, that’s two installations that can’t be subsidised at 23 pence.”     

The Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker, explained: “There is a finite budget here; the Chancellor put aside £867 million to come from a levy on peoples’ bills to pay for this, at the current unsustainable rate of 43 pence we are burning through that budget far too fast, putting the whole scheme in danger.”

Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: “The Government’s illegal cuts to solar tariff rates have near-crippled an industry and threatened thousands of jobs. Trying to appeal the High Court’s ruling is an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money – the court says the Government has no realistic chance of winning, and it will prolong uncertainty among solar companies just when they need reassurance.”

Pendleton continued: “Ministers should accept the High Court’s decision and end business uncertainty and protect jobs with a clear plan to reduce payments from February, in line with falling installation costs. The Government must expand the scheme overall – with all the tax revenue the scheme generates, this can be done at no extra cost to bill payers.”

The Government’s decision to appeal the High Court ruling is expected to heap more uncertainty on the solar industry, which can do nothing now but wait for the outcome of the review. If the Government wins the appeal, it is then expected that the solar PV feed-in tariff rate will drop back down to 21 pence. However, if the Government lose on appeal, the previous 43 pence rate will remain in place until full Parliamentary process has finished, a process that is expected to last until April.