Farmer relief as DECC loses FiT appeal

The government has lost its appeal against a High Court ruling which judged the retrospective cuts made to the feed-in tariff for solar PV at the end of last year illegal.

Three High Court judges robustly rejected the appeal from the DECC, upholding the original decision that the proposal to cut the FiT for solar PV installations from the 12 December last year, despite a consultation on the proposed cuts not closing until 23 December was unlawful.

Edward de la Billiere of Prospect Law who has been acting on behalf of Solar Century since the start of proceedings said: “We hope that DECC will take this as an opportunity to bring back certainty into the market by not trying any other legal processes that will upset the industry, accept the Court’s ruling and allow people to move on.”

But energy secretary Chris Huhne has since announced that the government will appeal the decision. “The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court ruling on FiTs albeit on different grounds. We disagree and are seeking permissions to appeal to the Supreme Court,” said Mr Huhne.

Regardless of the outcome of the appeal to the Supreme Court investors are guaranteed a tariff of no lower than 21p/kwh, as result of a provision laid before parliament by DECC last week. Depending on whether DECC is granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, the announcement means that anyone who installs a solar PV system before the 3 March this year will receive the original higher rate of 43p/kwh. However a spokesman for the Supreme Court has warned that a final appeal by DECC could take around 8 months to reach the courtroom, meaning the appeal process could drag on until the 3 March deadline passes.

Despite the ongoing legal wrangling, this week’s judgement comes as welcome news to a solar industry that has been left in limbo for months.

Chief renewables advisor, Dr Jonathan Scurlock at the NFU, said: “Farmers and growers can breathe a sigh of relief, having been given much more certainty over the future levels of the FiT. With the 21p tariff effectively guaranteed the FiT has gone from an unmissable opportunity to a good investment.”

“Crucially it has been ruled that the government was acting unlawfully by acting retrospectively to change the tariff levels,” he said. This gives investors confidence that 25 year investments in renewable technologies will not be subject to the vagaries of politics and government.

The reaction has been positive on Twitter with companies opening up their order books again in the lead up to the 3 March.

“Our team are ready to take orders now, take advantage of 43.3p before 3rd March,” tweeted one company.

But challenges still remain for the industry in particular the proviso in the consultation to introduce minimum energy efficiency standards for buildings with FiT supported solar pv systems mounted on them from the 1 April.

Questions also remain on the overall cost of appeal process, with the bill likely to footed by the tax payer.

During Parliamentary Questions, Caroline Flint MP asked for the legal costs of the appeal to which Greg Barker MP responded: “I estimate that the Government have incurred costs of approximately £66,400 to date.”

Read a copy of the court judgement below

For more on FITs see Farmers Weekly’s Farm Energy area

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