Solar PV Cuts – The Hidden Agenda Exposed?

January 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Climate Change, Village News

London, Friday 13 January 2012:

The Court of Appeals heard the government’s appeal to overturn to High Court decision which ruled the Feed-in-Tariff cuts unlawful.
After five hours the three justices conferred and announced they would issue their decision no sooner than this Friday 20th January. The delay is no help to the solar industry which is faced with making 30,000 redundancies beginning in one week.

The High Court’s ruling on the 21st December means that anyone installing solar PV on their roof between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012 is entitled to receive a payment of 43p per kWh generated for the next 25 years, adjusted for inflation (RPI) and tax free.  However, the  government’s appeal means there is still uncertainly.  If it succeeds then all solar PV installed from 12 December 2011 will receive only 21p per kWh from 1 April 2012.  And while most consider it unlikely that the government will succeed, the delays are accomplishing what the High Court ruled unlawful – the killing off of the entire solar industry.

The government argued that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has the power to alter the Feed-in-Tariff at any time. Mr. Swift, counsel for DECC, seemed to be making a favourable impression on the three judge Appeal Court panel during his 2 hours of pleadings. The solar industry countered with the argument that such a power was not conveyed to the Secretary of State in the enacting legislation, the Energy Act of 2008.  The Counsel for the solar industry, Mr. Grodenski, led the court step by step through the Energy Act making it clear to all present in the courtroom that DECC’s actions were indeed unlawful. 

The three judges asked pointed questions throughout the hearing in an attempt to draw facts from both sides. Several of those questions involved the granting of ‘vested rights’ – those entitlements that are guaranteed to someone by law.  In the case of the Feed in Tariffs, once a homeowner had met all of the requirements, they are deemed to have a vested right to the agreed upon feed in tariff as soon as they apply for it.  That cannot constitutionally be withdrawn from them. The government arbitrarily removed the vested rights to a 43p tariff from anyone applying after 12 December. The Energy Act clearly states that the Feed-in-Tariff can only be changed after 31 March 2012.

What will be the outcome?  The Court of Appeals will almost certainly rule against the government and uphold the High Court ruling that the government has acted unlawfully. DECC will issue a new schedule of Feed-in-Tariffs to become effective on 31 March. It is uncertain what that rate will be. It had been scheduled to drop to 39p from 43p before the 31 October announcement which reduced it to 21p.

Will we have another chance to secure a 43p tariff?  Maybe.  The next step for the government may be the Supreme Court – another delaying tactic.  It is possible that the Court of Appeals will prevent such a move in their ruling. We simply will not know until the decision is handed down.  In the meanwhile, some homeowners are moving ahead with their installations. One of them told me: “We are going ahead for two reasons. First, we need to do something to cut our CO2 emissions. Second, with energy prices set to rise over the next few years, I want to have my own reliable source of electric power so I am not held hostage by the big French and German energy companies.”

However, those in attendance left the court understanding that there is a much larger game afoot – a hidden agenda. Should the government win the argument that vested rights conveyed by law can be revoked at any time it could send the country into a constitutional crisis.  Would it be possible, for example, for pensions (which are vested rights) to be reduced, or even eliminated, by government whim?   What about other vested rights? Minimum wage? Health Care?

If you think that’s far fetched, remember Conservative Energy Minister Greg Barker’s smug statement to an American audience last year when he proudly described the great progress his government had made during it’s first few months in power: ‘We’ve been able to make cuts that Margaret Thatcher could only dream about.’  Barker has been a major force behind the Feed-in-Tariff cuts.

More as it happens …

Ken

 

Photo-by-Cristian-Bortes

A big 'thank you' goes to Hollyoak Veterinary Surgery in Impington for their financial and technical support. Without it this website would not be possible.

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