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Court case and future of solar

Date: 1 Feb 2012

Plug into the Sun,celebrated a brief victory last week as the government was defeated in the Court of Appeal.

It was ruled that the government had acted illegally on two counts: firstly because the government did not have the power to implement changes to the feed in tariff before the end of the consultation period and secondly because it was seen to go against statute.

The government has an obligation to encourage small-scale low carbon generation of electricity and the actions of the government have had the reverse affect.

The government’s slashing of the Feed in Tariff in December led to nationwide job losses and a dramatic fall in the numbers of solar PV installations in January.

Andrew Tanner, managing director from Plug into the Sun, helped to fund the court case and said that they were now gearing up for another busy period in the short term due to the interest created by the potential return to the old 43.3p/kWh tariff.

He said:” The figures stacked up well on the 21p / kWh tariff which is still definite.  The higher rate is still a possibility for installs before March 3rd but it's not guaranteed.  We have install capacity but obviously installs will be undertaken on a first come first served basis so the sooner people get in touch the quicker the install.”

Although the tariff has now returned to 43.3p/kWh for installs until March 3rd, there is still uncertainty about whether this will remain true due to the government’s announcement to take the matter to the Supreme Court. The outcome of the Supreme Court will determine what rate customers will receive, but no one will know for sure until after the March 3rd deadline.

Andrew Tanner said that although he was pleased with the result of the court case, taking the matter to the Supreme Court made it difficult to make a clear plan for the way ahead.

Andrew George, liberal democrat MP for West Cornwall, said that he would do all that he could to find a fruitful future for the industry.

He said: “That those people who may have predicted Armageddon may be proven wrong and that we can still at this stage persuade the government to come up with a package of measures that will both help them work within a reasonable budget  but also give the right level of stimulus to the industry.”

Andrew George said that he hoped that lessons would be learnt and things would get back on an even keel in order to find a future for the industry.

He added: “We need to harness all this talent and commitment and experience which we do not want to lose.”

The government will publish its response to parts of the phase one consultation not affected by the judicial review by 9th Feb along with the second phase which will include proposed tariffs for other FIT technologies and a set of reform proposals.

Virginia Graham, Chief Executive at REAL, Renewable Energy Assurance Limited sent out a letter of clarification about the FIT to members which said: "I appreciate that this a difficult and uncertain time for all solar PV installers. Nonetheless, it is essential at this time that you only sell solar PV on the basis that, for an installation that takes place between 12 December 2011 and 2 March 2012, a consumer will get 43.3p/kWh for generation that takes place before 31 March 2012 and 21p for generation that takes place thereafter. It might be that a consumer who installs between these dates will end up getting 43.3p/kWh for the whole 25 years but this is far from certain at the moment and this expectation must not be the basis for any sale,” Graham continued.

Plug into the Sun is committed to being as clear as possible with regards to information regarding the FIT and is advising customers that the 21p/kWh tariff is still a good investment.