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UK proposes March solar feed-in tariff deadline depending on court appeal

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has made provisions for a 3 March 2012 deadline for the reduced solar feed-in tariff should it lose a court appeal regarding its original December cut-off date.

By Kari Williamson

The ongoing saga about the UK's decision to cut solar feed-in tariff rates before the end of the appointed consultation period, has taken a new turn as DECC lays draft licence modifications before Parliament which, “subject to the Parliamentary process set out in the Energy Act 2008, makes provision for a reduced tariff rate (from 1 April 2012 onwards) for new solar PV installations with an eligibility date on or after 3 March 2012 under the Feed – in Tariffs scheme (FITs).”

In other words, if DECC loses its appeal in court, solar installation owners can get the higher solar feed-in tariff until 3 March, whereas if it wins the appeal, the cut off date could still be the 12 December.

Just before Christmas, a UK solar industry campaign to slow down Government-planned cuts to solar subsidies saw the High Court rule that the Government’s programme of cuts under the feed-in tariff were “legally flawed”.

The industry challenged the Government on its right to halve solar subsidies under the feed-in tariff on all installations eligible after 12 December, even though its own consultation on the proposals did not end until 23 December.

Minister says cuts are needed

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker says: “I know this is a difficult time for the sector and I want to do as much as I can to end the current uncertainty created by the legal challenge.

“We must reduce the level of FITs for solar panels as quickly as possible, to protect consumer bills and to avoid bust in the whole Feed-in Tariff budget. We’re appealing against the court ruling that’s challenged our proposal for a December reference date. This remains our aim, and we are waiting for the judgement of the Court of Appeal. But this is too important for us to sit and do nothing while we wait. Today we’re putting in place a contingency that will bring a 21p rate into effect from April for installations from 3 March.

“However, we are still pressing ahead with our appeal and if successful, we retain the option of introducing a December reference date. In the circumstances we believe this gives the industry as much certainty as is possible. And it puts us in a better position to protect the budget for everyone involved.”

The outcome of the consultation is expected by 9 February 2012.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity