Government loses appeal over cuts to solar subsidies

The Government has lost an appeal against a High Court ruling that found that its plans to cut solar subsidy payments were unlawful.

In a judgment handed down this morning, Lord Justices Lloyd, Moses and Richards unanimously ruled that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will not be able to overturn the original ruling handed down last month in Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change v Friends of the Earth and Others.

The judgment followed legal challenges brought by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms, Solarcentury and HomeSun.

The DECC had planned to cut Feed-in-Tarrifs (FITs) for any solar scheme completed after 12 December – 11 days before the official consultation closed.

According to Friends of the Earth, the move would have resulted in massive job cuts and business closures as solar firms were given six weeks notice to prepare for the cuts.

Today’s ruling means that, subject to any further appeal to the Supreme

Court, solar tariff payments will remain at 43.3p (p/kWh) until 3 March 2012, when they will fall to 21 pence.

Welcoming the ruling Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said: “This landmark judgment confirms that devastating Government plans to rush through cuts to solar payments are illegal – and will prevent ministers from causing industry chaos with similar cuts in future.

“The Government must now take steps to safeguard the UK’s solar industry and the 29,000 jobs still facing the chop.”

This is a victory for Matrix Chambers’ Sam Grodzinski QC, who was instructed by Asserson Law’s Trevor Asserson on behalf of HomeSun Holdings, as well as Landmark Chambers’ Richard Drabble QC and 39 Essex Street’s Duncan Sinclair, who were instructed by Friends of the Earth.

11 KBW’s Jonathan Swift QC led Paul Nicholls and James Cornwell on behalf of the Treasury Solicitors.