Update (26th January 2012)
On Wednesday 25 January, Appeal Court judges delivered their ruling upholding the previous High Court ruling that judged the early cut-off of 12 December to be illegal. After the 12 December, the rate of new installations of PV Solar plummeted to 5 % of that prior to the cut off date.
DECC have laid before Parliament proposals for a new cut-off date on 3 March 2012. If the legal position remains as it is today then any solar power installed prior to 3 March will be eligible for the more generous previous rate of 43p kWh (over the next 25 years) rather than the much reduce 21p kWh. This raises the prospect of a new ‘bonanza’ of installations over the next month.
However DECC now want to take the case to the Supreme Court. The likelihood of the Supreme Court overturning the judgement of two previous court ruling (and 4 judges) seems remote yet it does introduce a level of uncertainty.
The surprise cut off date of 12 December had the effect of scuppering church Solar PV projects that could not be accelerated. Ultimately we need a great deal more predictability built into the management and change of feed in tariffs. This has been argued by the Church of England and by a consortium of the Methodist Church, Baptist Union, United Reformed Church and Quakers in their submissions to the DECC consultation on feed in tariffs. See www.jointpublicissues.org.uk and http://www.shrinkingthefootprint.org/misc_lib/93.pdf
Update (21st December 2011)
Friends of the Earth has taken the government to court over changes to feed-in tariffs, and won. Press release: We win solar legal challenge.
Original article (4th December 2011)
Feed-in tariffs are a mechanism that provides incentives for householders and others to invest in solar power. In autumn 2011, the government announced changes to the feed-in tariff for solar electricity.
These changes mean that from 21st December 2011 the feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic cell installations would be reduced by approximately 50%. The registration date for systems to qualify for the current feed-in tariff rate has been brought forward from 31st March 2012 to 11th December 2011, ie giving less than six weeks' notice. This could affect many churches that are currently waiting for planning permission before they can proceed. The Church of England, via its Environmental Policy Department, is urging the Department of Energy and Climate Change to extend the deadline back to March 31st., especially for churches and community groups in appreciation of the longer planning time required for these projects.
What we think
We welcome the principle of feed in tariffs in order to help the UK catch up with Germany and other countries where solar power usage is already advanced.
Solar power must be at least a part of our future energy mix so the increased usage of solar power needs to be maintained. In cutting the feed-in tariff by 50% the government has put in jeopardy Solar Power schemes planned for social housing. As a result the poorest households may be denied the opportunity to benefit from savings in electricity usage.
The surprise early cut-off date of 12 December for installations under the current rates has disrupted many community and church installations that were working to a deadline of end of March 2012.
We appeal to the government to extend the deadline to 30 March for community organisations and churches as typically these groups are not in a position to bring their projects forward. When you look at likely increase in fuel costs solar power is not only saves carbon but over the life of a system is highly economic.
Find out more
Low Carbon Communities: FITS review survey analysis
Friends of the Earth: Funding for popular solar scheme slashed
The Guardian: Solar subsidies to be cut by half