Birmingham Friends of the Earth press release
Embargo: Immediate release, Wednesday 21 December 2011
Contact: Neil Verlander, Friends of the Earth press office: 020 7566 1649/ 07712 843 209
Joe Peacock, Birmingham Friends of the Earth email@example.com 0121 6326909
GOVERNMENT SOLAR CUTS ARE ILLEGAL, SAYS HIGH COURT
Government plans to rush through cuts to solar tariff payments are illegal, the High Court ruled today (Wednesday 21 December), following a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms – Solarcentury and HomeSun.
The court agreed that proposals to cut feed-in tariff payments for any solar scheme completed after 12 December – 11 days before the official consultation closed – were unlawful.
Friends of the Earth is urging the Government to come up with a new proposal which would allow solar payments to fall in line with reduced installation costs, while ensuring the solar industry continues to play a key part in developing a cleaner future.
The environmental campaigning charity is also calling for more money to encourage solar installations – paid for by the revenue the industry raises for the Treasury, the removal of planned restrictions that would prevent poorer households from installing solar panels and more support for community-owned schemes.
The Government’s own independent advisors say the economy must be weaned off of increasingly expensive fossil fuels like gas by investing in clean energy and slashing energy waste. Friends of the Earth’s Final Demand campaign is urging the Government to launch an investigation into the role of the Big Six energy firms in stopping people in Britain having energy we can all afford.
Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“These botched and illegal plans have cast a huge shadow over the solar industry, jeopardising thousands of jobs.
“We hope this ruling will prevent Ministers rushing through damaging changes to clean energy subsidies – giving solar firms a much-needed confidence boost.
“Ministers must now come up with a sensible plan that protects the UK’s solar industry and allows cash-strapped homes and businesses to free themselves from expensive fossil fuels by plugging into clean energy.”
“Solar payments should fall in line with falling installation costs but the speed of the Government’s proposals threatened to devastate the entire industry.”
Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigner Kara Moses said:
“This could be great news for Birmingham’s burgeoning solar industry. We hope that the government will come back with measures that will protect the positive work that’s being done by communities locally.
“With high levels of unemployment and fuel poverty in Birmingham we can’t afford to damage the work that’s being done to tackle this and give us better energy security.”
Notes to editors:
1. Photographs of Friends of the Earth’s action outside the High Court last week are available, for free at:
2. On Monday 31 October 2011 the Government launched a public consultation that would see the amount of solar panels installed each year fall by between 50 and 95 per cent: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/
3. The Government’s proposals have already had a devastating impact. Countless planned clean energy schemes have been abandoned and thousands of jobs are under threat. Last month a report by Element Energy, commissioned by Friends of the Earth and the solar industry, showed that the premature cuts could threaten 29,000 jobs and lose the Treasury up to £230 million a year in tax income. It showed that additional costs to lift the cap off the scheme will be more than equalled by extra tax receipts to the exchequer and saving on unemployment benefit that would have been paid to sacked solar fitters. www.foe.co.uk/resource/
4. Calculations by Friends of the Earth and Element Energy suggest that the Treasury receives from the solar industry at least £330m per year in income taxes, corporation tax, and VAT. Friends of the Earth’s calculations also reveal that any additional costs over budget that result from restoring the cut-off date to April, as well as allowing for moderate growth in the solar industry over the next three years at lower tariff rates, could be paid for by using this tax income – not increasing the costs to consumers.
5. The Government’s decision to slash solar funding was described by the CBI as an ‘own goal’ last month (Thursday 10 November 2011): http://www.cbi.org.uk/media-
6. Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to:
• Establish a system which enables feed-in tariff support to fall in line with the falling cost of solar technology – but in a stable fashion that supports the continued growth of the industry and jobs.
• Increase the overall budget for feed-in tariff schemes using tax revenues generated by jobs created by the scheme.
• Exclude housing association, school, council and other community projects from the damaging proposal to give multi-building projects even lower financial support.
• Only require solar projects on homes to install loft and cavity wall insulation where possible – rather than imposing much tougher energy efficiency conditions which would make 9 out of 10 householders ineligible for the scheme.
7. Examples of solar energy projects that have either been scrapped or are in jeopardy are available from Friends of the Earth’s press office – please call 020 7566 1649/ 07712 843 209 for more information.
8. The feed-in tariff scheme has led to the installation of more than 100,000 solar panel projects since its introduction in April 2010 and created around 27,000 new jobs, the majority of which are now under threat.
9. Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge to cuts in solar incentives is part of its Final Demand campaign, which calls for energy we can all afford and a public inquiry into the power and influence of the Big Six energy companies. Find out more at www.foe.co.uk/finaldemand.
10. Almost 20,000 people have asked the Government to keep supporting clean British energy – join them now at www.foe.co.uk/finaldemand.
11. More than 200 organisations, including community groups, councils, business organisations, solar companies and NGOs have signed a statement calling on the Government to re-think its plans. http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/