Solar panel spat growing

Opposition mounts over government’s solar energy ‘betrayal’

Opposition mounts over government’s solar energy ‘betrayal’

By Alex Stevenson

Ministers are facing mounting opposition to quicker-than-expected cuts to solar energy subsidies.

Environmental campaigners are planning to take the government to court over solar feed-in tariffs, which are being cut from December 12th.

The subsidy has helped encourage investment from companies looking to provide solar photovoltaic systems for households and small-scale organisations like community groups.

Feed-in tariffs were to be cut by April next year but will now be reduced from next month, before a consultation on the issue has ended.

CBI director-general John Cridland said the "dramatic cut" in the feed-in tariff was the "latest in a string of government own goals" affecting the low-carbon sector.

He told an East Midlands audience: "As you all know, moving the goal posts doesn't just destroy projects and jobs, it creates a mood of uncertainty that puts off investors and they wonder what’s coming next."

Friends of the Earth is threatening to mount a legal challenge, arguing that it is unlawful to cut the tariff before the public consultation ends.

"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," policy and campaigns director Craig Bennett said.

"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 schemes have already been scrapped."

The Local Government Association said yesterday that councils had been working "flat out" to get solar panels installed by the end of the financial year.

Those who fail to complete the installation will have their subsidy halved over the next 25 years, meaning the cost incurred to local authorities as a result of the incentive being cut early could run to hundreds of millions of pounds.

“Rushing through these cuts before the consultation has even finished is going to leave local authorities stuck between a rock and a hard place," LGA environment board chairman David Parson said.

"This is going to have a terrible impact on families who could have benefitted from cheaper energy. It could also lead to the loss of thousands of jobs as energy firms find contracts falling by the wayside."

The LGA predicts many councils will be forced to pay inflated prices to accelerate the installation of solar panels. Many fear regulator Ofgem could struggle to process the applications before the December 12th deadline.

"This is a deliberate kick in the teeth for people who are doing their best to protect themselves from soaring energy bills – and it shows just how out of touch this government is," shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said.

"The cuts to solar go too far and too fast, and will have a devastating impact on customers and industry."