Campaigners warn of legal challenge to solar subsidy cuts

Campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has threatened the government with legal action over plans to reduce subsidies for small-scale solar power installations under the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme.

Solar power: government slashed tariffs last week
Solar power: government slashed tariffs last week
The environmental group has given energy minister Greg Barker until the end of this week to amend its proposals to cut FiT rates for solar photovoltaic installations of up to 250kW. Otherwise, it said, it will take its case to the courts.

The proposals were set out in a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) consultation document issued last week. Under its terms, the reduced rates would apply to solar panels installed after 12 December.

FoE said the cut-off date, which is almost two weeks before the consultation period ends, is unlawful and will lead to unfinished or planned projects being abandoned. It also claimed that the wording of the consultation offers little prospect that ministers will keep an open mind about representations made.

"The government is breaking the law with its plans to fast-track a solar industry kill-off, as well as jeopardising thousands of jobs and countless clean energy projects across the country," said campaigns director Craig Bennett.

"Significant time and money has been invested planning solar schemes for homes, schools and libraries. Giving them just six weeks to install is completely unacceptable, and some schemes have already been scrapped," he added.

In a separate development Jeremy Leggett, chairman of solar power installer Solarcentury, has written to Prime Minister David Cameron requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the proposed changes to the FiTs regime.

Earlier this year, DECC said that the rate for small-scale solar schemes would remain unchanged until April 2012 unless the review indicates a need for "greater urgency". Leggett said DECC’s impact assessment of the proposals suggests that bringing forward the deadline forward to December will save "pennies rather than pounds" on average household energy bills.

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