High court to re-examine decision by Chris Huhne to fast-track review that scrapped subsidies for large-scale solar installations
Solar power companies are taking the government to court over last-minute changes to subsidies that they say are destroying their business.
A group of companies filed on Tuesday for a judicial review against Chris Huhne, secretary of state for energy and climate change, for his decision to review the feed-in tariffs (Fits) that top up revenues for renewable power.
Ministers said in February they would end subsidies to large-scale solar power installations from this summer to ensure all money available would go to domestic or small commercial installations.
But solar companies are furious that dozens of planned installations will now be scuppered, including schemes for solar panels on farms, schools and other public buildings, which they said would have boosted the UK’s renewable power capabilities. Larger scale deployments are more cost-effective than putting panels on individual roofs, say solar campaigners.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said: “We have been served with a judicial review in relation to the feed-in tariff review into large-scale solar, which we will consider. We support sustained growth in the solar industry and have proposed measures for consultation that will protect the Fits scheme for homes, small businesses and communities.” We are consulting on proposals and would encourage those with an interest to respond. It added that solar photovoltaic schemes under 50 kilowatts are unaffected by the fast-track review.
The case is based on the argument that Decc had made it clear that the first review of Fits would not take place until 2012, with changes not implemented until April 2013. Then last November, it said a review could take place earlier, but that any changes would not come into force until next year. Setting such expectations and then betraying them was unreasonable, the solar companies argue. They say Decc failed to give sufficient reason for beginning a review earlier than expected.
There is no evidence of “excessive” deployment of large-scale solar power, according to the complainants.
Mark Shorrock, chief executive of Low Carbon Solar UK, one of the group taking the case to court, said: “Further to communicating our concerns through various meetings and letters [to ministers], we now feel that the only course of action left to us as a group is to seek a judicial review. We hope Chris Huhne will abandon this fast-track review of Fits and work with us to find a more appropriate solution.”
He said the government’s plans would hobble solar development in the UK. “In pulling back on a commitment to support solar energy, the government will cause the abandonment of hundreds of community scale schemes. The costs of not getting this right now include the creation of new jobs, a diversified income for farmers and landowners, reduced energy costs for businesses and the provision of more secure and reliable energy for the UK.”
The group of solar companies includes Low Carbon Solar, MO3 Power, Alectron Investments and Element Power. Several individuals are also involved in their own right.
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