There’s been plenty of squawking about the Obama Administration’s spending on solar-energy development (ie, the overwrought hoopla surrounding the Solyndra “scandal”). But any missteps the US government has taken pale in comparison to what’s been going on across the pond.
Coming into office with the promise to build the “greenest government ever,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition has instead drawn an increasing amount of fire from environmentalists, clean-energy advocates and others calling for a more sustainable Britain. In the case of the government’s proposal late last year to abruptly cut incentives for solar-panel installations in half, even the country’s High Court of Appeals is crying “foul.”
A three-judge panel found today that the government’s claim that it could reduce those incentives at will ahead of the predetermined expiration date “offends the legality principle.”
Friends of the Earth, the UK-based solar-energy firm Solar Century and several other parties last year filed suit against Chris Huhne, the government’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, after his agency — the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) — announced plans to halve the feed-in tariff (FIT) rates ahead of schedule for homeowners who installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. The news threw solar-energy companies into an uproar: the sudden reduction, they said, created massive uncertainty for the market and threatened to kill Britain’s nascent solar-power industry just as it was moving from a crawl to a walk.
DECC claims the move was prompted by the overwhelming response to the solar incentive. With so many homeowners taking advantage of the tariff, DECC said its budget would be quickly exhausted if tariff rates weren’t cut.
The ironic part in all this is that the feed-in tariffs were already scheduled to adjust to a lower rate early this year.
While Friends of the Earth is hailing the court’s latest ruling, it’s also urging the government to give up the opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“This would extend the uncertainty for the industry,” a Friends of the Earth statement read.
Huhne, on the other hand, is criticizing the court’s decision and said DECC is seeking permission to appeal.
“We want to maximize the number of installations that are possible within the available budget rather than use available money to pay a higher tariff to half the number of installations,” he said in a statement. “Solar PV can have strong and vibrant future in UK and we want a lasting FITs scheme to support that future and jobs in the industry.”
Challenging this latest ruling in court yet again, though? Looks like a pretty strange way to show your “support.”