One week ago today, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) lost its appeal against the High Court ruling in December that its proposals to change the feed-in tariff rates for solar PV were “unlawful.” However, since then, Government has decided to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and they have 28 days from the judgment on 25 January to do so. This decision has issued yet more uncertainty into the UK solar industry.

The decision to appeal to the Supreme Court leaves Government in a position where it cannot legislate to apply new tariffs from April 1, 2012 to installations that took place between December 12, 2011 and before March 2, 2012. Government did however lay legislation to reduce the tariff for new installations in Parliament on 19 January 2012. It will come into effect on March 3, 2012 and will apply to all installations with an eligibility date on or after this date.

“What this means is that any installation that takes place between 3 and 31 March will receive 43.3p/kWh in respect of generation until 31 March 2012 and 21p in respect of generation after 1 April 2012,” explained Virginia Graham, Chief Executive at REAL, in a clarification note sent to members.

Unfortunately, what this does mean is that until the outcome of the appeal is known, Government cannot provide any certainty to consumers with installations that take place between December 12, 2011 and March 2, 2012. The only certainty Government has provided is that consumers installing 4kW systems will not receive a tariff lower than 21p for 25 years.

“I appreciate that this a difficult and uncertain time for all solar PV installers. Nonetheless, it is essential at this time that you only sell solar PV on the basis that, for an installation that takes place between 12 December 2011 and 2 March 2012, a consumer will get 43.3p/kWh for generation that takes place before 31 March 2012 and 21p for generation that takes place thereafter. It might be that a consumer who installs between these dates will end up getting 43.3p/kWh for the whole 25 years but this is far from certain at the moment and this expectation must not be the basis for any sale,” Graham continued.

The REAL has also warned that it is not acceptable to sell a guaranteed 43p for 25 years during this period of uncertainty.

“This is mis-selling and it is a breach of the REAL Consumer Code. You must not agree a contract with a consumer on this basis. Please note that it is not acceptable to have a small print notice qualifying a misleading or incorrect claim. Should one of your consumers rely on receiving 43.3p/kWh for 25 years, but in the end does not, your company could end up refunding them the difference,” Graham explained.

“I have received a number of examples of misleading advertising. The Non-Compliance Panel has asked to receive a report at the end of March of any company putting out misleading advertising or otherwise seeking to exploit this time of uncertainty by pressurising consumers into signing contracts. I am currently compiling this report and will pass it to the Panel with details of the companies concerned.”

With instances of rouge installers and ‘double-glazing style’ selling within the UK solar industry still fresh in some consumers minds, the REAL, along with a large portion of the industry, is now working to dispel the false FiT claims currently circulating.

Are you worried about the cut to 21p? Confused about how to proceed at the lower rates? Join us at the Solar Power UK Roadshow: Coping with the Cuts – coming to a town near you! Click here to sign up.