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Government loses solar power appeal

The Government has lost its third bid to cut subsidies for solar panels on homes as the Supreme Court refused permission to appeal on Friday.

Following the unexpected success of Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), the Government wanted to reduce the subsidies on any solar installations completed after December 12 last year. However, the High Court ruled that this was unlawful, as the deadline fell 11 days before the end of a consultation period on the proposals.

In January, appeal judges disagreed that the Secretary of State had the power to modify the tariff rate in the way the Government sought to do so. Solar power companies and environmental groups celebrated the victory, as halving FiTs could have placed 29,000 jobs in the solar industry at risk.

The Government argued that the high returns meant that the entire budget was being sucked up by large-scale installations, and that reducing the subsidy would let far more small-scale organisations apply.

But on Friday, the Supreme Court refused the Government permission to appeal, announcing that the application “does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time”.

Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said: “This is the third court that’s ruled that botched Government solar plans are illegal – a landmark decision which will prevent ministers causing industry chaos with similar subsidy cuts in future.

“The coalition must now get on with the urgent task of restoring confidence inUK solar power. The Government recently pledged a huge increase in solar by the end of the decade. It must now spell out how it is going to achieve this. Investing in clean British energy will create thousands of new jobs and help reduce our reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports.”

Robert Goss, managing director of ConergyUK: “This is £1.5bn back in the pockets of people who invested in solar, which is great news for the economy. The Government thought they could steamroller what they saw as a small industry but there shouldn’t have been any doubt, we don’t do regulation without consultation in this country. Since the start of the year the Government has realised panels have gone mainstream and they’ve become much more balanced in their approach to the industry.”

Ed Davey, energy and climate change secretary, said he was disappointed by the decision but added: “The court’s decision draws a line under the case. We will now focus all our efforts on ensuring the future stability and cost effectiveness of solar and other microgeneration technologies for the many, not the few.”

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