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Judicial review date set on government's feed-in tariff cuts

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The High Court has given permission to Friends of the Earth and solar firms Solarcentury and HomeSun to challenge the government’s plans to slash financial incentives for solar electricity

According to the AJ’s sister publication Construction News, the judicial review has been set for Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 December.

Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said: ‘We’re delighted the High Court has given the go ahead to our legal challenge. We believe government plans to abruptly slash solar subsidies are not only unfair, but illegal.

‘These proposals have already had a disastrous impact on the solar industry. Fledgling clean businesses have had the rug pulled from under their feet, and a shadow hangs over thousands of jobs. Ministers must change direction and put the solar industry at the forefront of building a clean, safe future.’

The solar industry has been plunged into crisis since the government announced the cut-off date, weeks before its current consultation into feed-in tariffs is due to close - the decision cited by local authorities and businesses as the reason for many projects being abandoned.

Friends of the Earth is also seeking a cap on its potential legal costs, citing international rules that specify costs should be limited in public interest cases on the environment.

A reduced rate of 21p/kWh for solar PV installations of less than 4kW will be introduced from 1 April 2012 and will affect all installations on or after 12 December 2011.

Atkins said he agreed that cuts to feed-in tariffs should reflect the installation costs - which have dropped dramatically in the past two years - but insisted that the proposed cuts have ‘gone too far’ and will end up costing the Treasury millions each year in lost revenue.

One solar panel company has warned that the majority of householders won’t be eligible for the green incentive from April 2012 due to proposals currently under consultation.

The government is proposing that only houses with an energy efficiency rating of ‘C’ or above will be eligible for the scheme, and this will come into effect in April next year.

The UK government is consulting on two proposals:

  • that the owner or occupier should bring the property up to an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of level C or above; or
  • that the owner or occupier of a building should undertake all the measures that are identified on an EPC as potentially eligible for Green Deal finance, with no additional finance required.

North-west solar panel firm BSOLAR’s managing director Peter Bladen said: ‘Much of our building stock is older properties, which even if they use the full range of energy-saving measures out there, still won’t reach the ‘C’ rating.

‘My advice to homeowners considering installing green technology, in particular solar panels, is to get them installed before April, while they are still eligible for the green incentives the government offers.’

Meanwhile, Wagner Solar UK has appointed Jan Stasik as its new UK technical manager.

Wagner Solar UK managing director Carsten Pump said: ‘The solar market here in the UK, particularly for PV, is entering a turning point with the new feed-in tariff.

‘Installers will need to rethink their business models, and quality of service and installation will come to the forefront more now than ever before. We are fortunate to have Jan on board in the UK to help our installer clients with technical troubleshooting and guidance, so they are constantly abreast of the best installation technique.’

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