Friends of the Earth has come out in support of the legal challenge led by four solar companies.
Lark Energy, Orta Solar, Solarcentury and TGC Renewables launched a Judicial Review in August against government proposals to remove renewable obligation support for large-scale solar.
Friends of the Earth has submitted a letter to the court in support of the challenge. The letter expresses concerns over the way the government has handled the potential withdrawal of RO support for solar over 5MW.
Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns at the green NGO, explained why Friends of the Earth felt compelled to intervene, he said: “We are very concerned that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is once again attempting what may be a retrospective change to legislation – which is why we are backing the case for Judicial Review. This is not about saying that support systems for solar cannot change, but about making sure it is done in a transparent and timely way.
“Solar power is now the second cheapest low carbon power source, and with firm government support could be a major contributor to Britain’s energy future.”
The solar companies state that they are now working towards an autumn court date. Ben Cosh, managing director of TGC Renewables, one of the four claimants, welcomed Friends of the Earth’s support, he said: “We are delighted that Friends of the Earth has today given its support for the Judicial Review. Solar energy is tantalisingly close to becoming subsidy free, meaning cheaper bills for consumers, and we want to achieve this goal as quickly as possible.
“All we need from Ed Davey is stable and lawful policy, but instead he has yet again pulled the rug from under the industry’s feet. If successful the Judicial Review will require DECC to review the consultation process and to conduct a completely new exercise that is lawful and consults on changes rather than impose them retrospectively.”
The Judicial Review represents the third legal challenge in as many years for the solar industry.
The companies appointed Prospect Law to represent them in court. A spokesman from the legal firm who was responsible for the previous two successful legal challenges said: “The government put the RO in place to offer solar businesses the certainty they need through legislation, but now it is trying to remove this certainty through the back door. This behaviour was found to be unlawful in the case of feed-in tariffs, and it remains unlawful now. It is surprising that DECC has not learnt its lesson.”
Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Friends of the Earth added that its legal team will keep “a close eye on the situation and we will assess developments as they occur”.