The European Commission has confirmed that the UK could face legal action over its plans to more than halve subsidies for solar on December 12.

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, submitted a Priority Question to the commission, who confirmed that legal proceedings will be taken if the current proposals significantly impact the UK’s progress toward the binding EU target on renewable energy.

On behalf of the European Commission, Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, stated:“Whenever Member States revise their support for support schemes for renewable energy, they need to do so in a manner which does not destabilise the renewable energy industry or risk undermining their own plans to achieve their 2020 targets.

“Should the UK or any Member State weaken policies in such a way that it would threaten progress towards their targets, the Commission would take action, launching legal proceedings if necessary.”

Commenting on the Commission's response, Lambert said: “The UK Government is attempting to rush through foolhardy and damaging changes to an incredibly successful renewable energy scheme which has resulted in 100,000 solar installations, the creation of over 22,000 jobs and almost 4,000 new businesses.  Rashly withdrawing support from this burgeoning industry will be disastrous for both our economy and the environment.  

“Under the Commission's ruling, the UK is prevented from making amendments to support schemes which could jeopardise the renewables industry, yet sudden, drastic cuts to the tariff will strip away investor confidence, reduce the market for solar companies across the country, and threaten jobs.  In the current climate, with unemployment reaching record levels, we can ill afford further job losses which could potentially reach into the thousands. This would seem to be a risky move: “destabilising” the industry by anyone's definition.

Lambert concluded: “The Government must now demonstrate that plans to slash the subsidy will not derail the UK from delivering 15 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020, or the Commission will have no choice but to initiate infringement proceedings.”

The warning issued by the Commission follows the confirmation of a permission hearing on December 15 by the High Court over the UK Government’s handling of the proposed cut to the feed-in tariff.