Government To Take Solar Feed-In Tariff Appeal To Supreme Court

The government has confirmed it is to take its appeal against the ruling that its decision to cut solar feed-in tariff (FITs) before the end of a consultation period was unlawful to the Supreme Court.  The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s ruling, denying the government a right to appeal and instigating procedures that would prevent the rushing through of similar changes in future.

“The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court ruling on FITs albeit on different grounds. We disagree and are seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court,” Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne explained in a statement.

He said the government has to protect the budget for FITs for all renewable technologies, which would come under pressure if another gold rush started as the tariff levels returns to 43.3p.  “We want to maximise the number of installations that are possible within the available budget rather than use available money to pay a higher tariff to half the number of installations,”

But critics accused the government of indirectly dampening demand for solar panels by continuing the uncertainty hanging over the sector.  The new appeal to the Supreme Court means that although the Appeal Court’s decision suggests that tariffs should return to 43.3p, it cannot be guaranteed until the case has been heard.  The government’s decision to continue its case has met with criticism from across the board.

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Joan Walley, accused the government of handling the issue clumsily and creating unnecessary uncertainty.  “The government must now work quickly to set out how the scheme will operate within the existing legal framework to give certainty to households, community groups and the sector,” she says.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said that the whole saga has been “shambolic” and urged ministers to “pull the plug on the legal merry-go-round”.  “Having lost twice in the Court of Appeal… it is absolutely beggars belief that the Department for Energy and Climate Change is apparently planning to appeal to the Supreme Court,” she says.

Even John Cridland, director-general of the business lobby group the CBI, urged the government to accept the Court’s decision and guarantee the original 43.3p tariff.  “The judgement should be used to draw a line under this saga, which saw the government scoring a spectacular own goal and confidence in the renewables sector undermined.”

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