Government Loses FiT Appeal.

January 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Climate Change, Village News

BREAKING (Updated 14:18 GMT)

The Court Of Appeals has rejected the appeal to overturn the High Court ruling which found the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) reduction unlawful. The tariff remains at 43p for all solar PV installed before 3 March 2012. [note that's the THIRD of March]  Had the government won the appeal it would have had a major impact on many laws outside the scope of the Feed in Tariff (see below)

ON 31 October the government said it would cut the FiT from 43p to 21p for any installation completed on or after the 12th of December.  The High Court ruled on 21 December that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) did not have the authority to cut the FiT RETROSPECTIVELY.  DECC was unhappy with that ruling and took the case to the Court of Appeals.  The Appeal was heard on Friday 13th January before a three judge panel.

Today Lord Justice Moses speaking for the panel of three Lord Justices rejected the government’s request for an appeal and also denied permission to a further appeal to the Supreme Court. The 14 page decision made it very clear that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change had no authority to make modifications retrospectively.

The significance of this decision cannot be underestimated.  Had the government succeeded then it could have changed the FiT rates retrospectively at any time – even for those who had existing installations.  For example, homeowners who had already installed PV on their roofs and were entitled to receive 25 years of the FiT at the rate designated in their contracts could have found both the length and amounts lowered at any time at the whim of the Secretary of State.  The Justices had put that proposition to the government’s counsel during the Friday 13th hearing.  The government responded in the affirmative that they could exercise their retrospective power at any time for whatever reason without any further need to consult Parliament.  That response raised the eyebrows of each of the three justices!

“Vested Rights” is a term that was used throughout the original Appeals hearing.  These are rights that are given or earned with the expectation that they cannot be removed or altered at any time.  This raised the question of whether the government was using this FiT case as a precedent to alter or eliminate other “vested rights” or “entitlements” guaranteed by law.  Fortunately today’s ruling went against the government and will make it harder for them to argue they have powers beyond that which legislation gives them.

It should be remembered that Minister of State for Energy Greg Barker has been bragging to audiences in the United States that his government was making sweeping cuts that Margaret Thatcher could have only dreamed about. The implication was that he and ‘his government’ would continue to do so (with glee).  Barker appears to fancy himself as future Prime Minister material and seems to have decided to make his mark by cutting the feed in tariff.  If you watch the news tonight you will see he is a very unhappy bunny but still full of bravado in defeat.

The next step in this saga occurs on 9 February when the government will lay before Parliament modification for the next FiT year 2012-13.  That will set a new tariff for all of those wishing to install solar PV on their roofs after 1 April 2012. (It will have no effect on those who have already installed PV prior to that date).  Our own Village Energy Project is encouraging anyone wanting to install PV to act quickly.  Contact them at solar@hicourier.co.uk for advice or to arrange for a survey of your roof and a quotation.  Remember, the 43p FiT ends on the third of March 2012 so you must complete your PV installation before that date.

 

 

Court of Appeals Ruling on Wednesday

January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Climate Change

We expect a ruling tomorrow in the feed in tariff case. We will be there and bring you news as it happens.

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

High Court Rules FiT Cuts Illlegal

December 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Climate Change, Village News

The High Court ruled late this afternoon that the cuts to the feed in tariff proposed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change were unlawful. Therefore anyone install solar PV after the proposed 12 December cut-off date is still eligible for the full 43p feed in tariff for a period of 25 years. Those in the village who feared they had missed the current feed-in tariff rates can breathe a sigh of relief.  However, they are encouraged to act quickly if they wish to purchase a PV system at the current high FiT rates.

DECC Minister Greg Barker said they would appeal the decision.  However, Mr Justice Mitting who made the decision said he did not expect it to be overturned.

The HI Courier sat through the 2 days of legal wrangling at the High Court.  The decision handed down made it clear that the government had caused an immediate and significant economic impact on the solar industry by specifying a cut off date within its proposal.  He said that DECC’s Secretary of State had no authority in law to modify the feed in tariff.  That power was explicitly reserved for OFGEM which administers the feed in tariff under law. It did say that the Secretary of State does have the power to veto OFGEM rate changes but that it cannot do so under his own authority.  Further, Justice Mitting said that decision about both the amount and date of eligibility for qualifying for the feed in tariff payments could not be made before the the consltation ended.  Such action undermines the legislation and attempts to retroactively change primary law – the Act of Parliament – with secondary law or regulations. 

The proper procedure is to: 1. conduct a consultation; 2. give full consideration to all of the responses made during the consultation; 3. draft a modification; 4. lay it before Parliament for 40 days to give it that chance to make changes or amendments.  Only then can an effective date be set.

At this point it means the new cut-off date for the current feed in tariff is likely to be somewhere between 15 February and 15 March.  However, we understand that the Court of Appeals could change that to 31st March by following Justice Mitting’s ruling that only OFGEM can impliment changes.  The law clearly says that can only happen after 1 April. 

A full written ruling will be available in a few days.  The date for filing for an appeal is 4pm on the 4th of January 2012 with the advice that the case be heard as a matter of urgency.  The likely date for that appeal is 9 January.

The solar industry may pursue additional legal remedies because of the losses it incurred.  For now it appear that the jobs of some 25,000 solar workers are guaranteed – a very nice Christmas present for their families indeed.

Solar PV: High Court Update

December 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Climate Change, Village News

Thursday 15 December 2011, 15:30 GMT

Mr Justice Mitting today granted permission for a judicial review in the case of “The Queen v Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change” to go forward as a matter of urgency. Next Tuesday and Wednesday the Court will hear arguments which could negate the governments decision to cut the feed in tariff before the planned deadline of 31 March 2012.

Those who attended the packed courtroom were encouraged by Mr Justice Mitting’s insistence that this review be conducted as soon as possible to avoid further financial damage to PV installation companies that have considerable amounts of money invested in supplies and materials.

The Court will concentrate on the retrospective issue of the government’s ‘proposal’. As the feed in tariff was set up by primary law with the stipulation that the tariff would remain in effect until 31 March 2012 with a review prior to that date for the purposes of adjusting the tariff rate, it is argued that the Department for Energy and Climate Change cannot retrospectively change the tariff prior to that date and can certainly not arbitrarily set a cutoff date 12 December 2011. Mr Justice Mitting zeroed in on this aspect of the arguments citing the economic damages that have resulted already and that will continue to be suffered by many small businesses. He seemed to surprise everyone with his desire for swift action. A decision is due on Wednesday afternoon.

Should the decision uphold the government cuts, Mr Justice Mitting has left open the possibility of additional challenges with judicial reviews based on at least three other issues. So there are many additional opportunities to overturn the FiT cuts if this one fails.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO US?

There is a high probability that the feed in tariff will continue at 43p until 31 March as originally enshrined in law. If the government’s cuts are overturned next Wednesday a great surge of new solar PV orders is likely to follow in the following days. We strongly suggest that you contact one of the Village Energy Suppliers IMMEDIATELY to arrange for installation. Do this BEFORE Wednesday if you can. Your order will be processed but you will not be obligated to go ahead with the installation unless the old feed in tariff is reinstated. BE SURE to tell them that you are part of the VILLAGE ENERGY PROJECT and make sure they note that on your order. You can reach Beechdale Energy at 01223 264520 and Aran Services at 01284 812520.

Those wanting our FREE PV programme will have to wait until January. If you have not already contacted us please do so by email at solar@hicourier.co.uk

Please note that we have been heavily involved in actions to overturn the government’s decisions over the past 7 weeks. We are very behind on answering your emails so please be patient.

More detailed info will follow at www.hicourier.co.uk and, of course, we will be back at the High Court in London next week to report on the arguments and the decisions.

- Ken, Village Energy Project
07402 674585

Breaking: High Court to Decide Solar PV Tariff Cuts

December 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Climate Change, Village News

MR JUSTICE MITTING ruled moments ago to allow the judicial review brought by Friends of the Earth (FOE) and two solar companies to proceed early next week. More to follow. Check the HI Courier website for details and an important announcement for those wishing to purchase solar PV for their homes.

Village Energy Project – Update THURSDAY 08 December 2011

December 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Climate Change, Village News

A lot has been happening behind the scenes in the past two weeks.  While I cannot yet tell you the entire story, I can say that the question of feed in tariff cuts is still wide open and the battle is heating up.  As I have said in previous e-mails the likely scenario is a compromise which will vacate the 12th December cut-off and extend the current 43.3 p feed in tariff (FiT) until at least 31 March 2012. At the moment our installations and planning are on hold pending a decision.  Here are the latest developments:

1. High Court Agrees to Hear FiT Challenge:

After much legal manoeuvring, the High Court will hear a petition to permit a challenge to the government’s feed in tariff cuts.  The petition is brought by Friends of the Earth (FOE) and two solar companies. It will be heard next Thursday 15 December.  A Judicial Review is complicated and it will take time. However, the pressure is mounting on government to compromise. Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “It’s short sighted for Ministers to move the goalposts and prematurely pull the subsidy – this will cost tens of thousands of jobs, bankrupt businesses and reduce Treasury income by up to £230 million a year.” Lots more late next week on this.

2. Face-Saving Strategy for 2012?

The industry is also actively lobbying the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to increase the Export Tariff.  The export tariff is currently set at 3.1p per kWh.  DECC is being asked to raise that to at least 9p.  This may be a signal for what will happen AFTER April 2012 – a ‘compromise formula’ bringing the total payment to homeowners to at least 30p (21p FiT plus 9p DECC topup). This would provide excellent returns given the rapid drop in the cost of PV panels coming in January 2012.

NOTE: This is all getting very political. The coalition will be very uncomfortable if the continuing anger over the FiT cuts results in a substantial Labour comeback in the 2012 local elections. It’s something that neither David Cameron or Nick Clegg wants as it would weaken their leadership of their respective parties.

3. European Commission to Bring Legal Action Against UK over FiT Cuts:

The European Commission has now stated publicly that it will take legal action against the UK because its action to cut the tariff to 21p undermines the UK’s legal binding 2020 target for renewable energy production. The Commission’s position is that any changes to FiT support schemes must be done in a manner which does not undermine and destabilize the renewable energy industry. What the statement really says is: Germany, the most powerful player in the EU and the main hope of preventing a second recession or worse in the UK, is very unhappy that its solar industry will be hit heavily by the UK cuts to the feed in tariff. Hence, the very real threat of action by the Commission.

German solar PV, inverters, roof mountings, wind turbines and even some of their underemployed installation teams are coming into the UK in large numbers. Renewable energy is big business and Germany is the clear leader of renewable energy manufacturing in the EU.  Until the 31 October (Halloween) announcement of the feed-in-tariff cuts by Minister Greg Barker, the UK was catching up quickly and there was talk of large scale investments planned for new renewable energy manufacturing here. That would mean lots of new jobs and a growing economy.

The threat of European Commission action could be another face saving way out for the government which has been widely condemned for it’s FiT cuts. For many conservative back benchers this could be more ammunition for their anti-EU campaign. And for the Lib Dems, it would be a welcome relief as the FiT cuts issue is unlikely to be favourable to Lib Dem candidates in the May 2012 local elections. Both parties could hold up their hands and say “the EU made us do it.” The ‘it’ being the re-instatement of the original FiT rate. As mentioned above, the leaders of both parties in the coalition are on shakey ground over the UK economy and the Europe Union.  A bad election result could seal their fate.

We Are Not Alone:

The FiT cuts here are part of a worldwide campaign by big energy companies to maintain the status quo and keep us on a fossil fuelled road well into the future.  The big energy companies are pulling out all the stops as countries around the world are initiating their own feed in tariffs to encourage adoption of clean renewable energy.

There is a worldwide campaign to stop that development and to continue on a ‘business as usual’ footing. We know that such a plan is suicide for virtually all of us. Yet the short term profits are just too enticing for the large energy companies. Today at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Durban the United States, pushed by its own powerful energy lobby, is trying to get a resolution passed to delay all cuts of CO2 emissions until 2020.  Of course, by then it will be too late.

This is a time of great technological change.  We’ve seen it before. Those of us who remember technology in the late 1960′s will know the name IBM.  They were the undisputed leader in computing and a very powerful player on the world market.  In the early 70′s if you had a computer in your office it usually meant you had a ‘dumb terminal’ connected to some remote IBM computer in a major city.  The idea of ‘distributed computing’ with a real computer on every desk was something out of science fiction.  When the first microcomputers came out they were curiosities rather than the workhorses they are today.  IBM tried to sabotage the idea of distributed computing but failed.

Today we can’t imagine a world without our laptops and ipads (and smartphones, too!) That scenario is being played out again – this time with energy generation.  Our grand kids will find it amusing that we once had centralised power stations that required big ugly power distribution pylons spoiling our landscape instead of rooftop technology that converted solar energy into free power for our homes and vehicles.

Self-Evident:

Every new idea goes through three phases: 1. Ridicule; 2. Persecution; and finally 3. Acceptance as self-evident.  We are in the latter part of stage 2.  Energy companies (oil, gas, coal, electricity, and nuclear) are pouring money and political capital into preventing the inevitable: renewable energy generated in every home and village in the country. To most of us the idea is already self-evident.  Those companies who oppose the idea will either have to change or move out of the way – just like IBM did.

The key to a bright, clean and inexpensive energy future depends on us – not on government, not on big fossil energy companies.  DO contact our MP James Paice to remind him that you are watching. This whole fight is disgustingly political. It’s time to make your voice heard.

More as it happens …

Cheers
Ken Doyle
Village Energy Project
HI Courier

Film Club: “24 Hours of Reality”

October 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Climate Change, Village News

 

September 2011: 24 Presenters. 24 Time Zones. 13 Languages. 1 Message.
24 Hours of Reality was a worldwide event to broadcast the reality of the climate crisis.

Over 8 million internet viewers watched it.

On 9 Novermber, the HI Film Club will screen the final 1 hour programme from this remarkable event. It is an up to the minute documentary about what is happening right now to the world’s climate and what is being done to stop the worst effects of this catastrophe.

This is the most important film we have yet presented. Don’t miss it.

SPECIAL SCREENING!
“24 Hours of Reality”
9 November 8pm
The Stables
St Andrews
Histon

Special BBC Report: The Vanishing Antarctica

May 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Climate Change

Many of you may recognise the British Antarctic Survey scientists in this special BBC News report. Check it out!

“The Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica is one of the worlds largest rivers of ice and it has almost doubled its speed in the last 30 years.”  “Its behaviour has left scientists confused and concerned.” “The ice here is melting faster than just about anyone thought possible. It’s beginning to look like the greatest vanishing act on earth.” – presenter Richard Wilson

Hugh Corr is an aerogeophysicist. Back in 1997, he was working on a vast expanse of floating ice called Larsen-B. It was displaying worrying signs of collapse. “We knew it was going to go at some point.” Now it’s gone. In the beginning of 2002 it was there. But in less than two weeks it vanished. Completely and unexpectedly. Why did it collapse? How could it happen so fast? Tasmen Gray is a climatologist on the peninsula. “It’s one of the fastest warming places on the planet.” It’s increasing at a rate ten times the rest of the planet.

Ice shelves restrain the glaciers behind it.  That fact is now clear from the speedup of the glacier after the collapse of Larsen-B. In the 6 months after the collapse the glaciers behind the ice shelf lost about 30 metres in height as they melted and sped toward the sea. Ice shelves float and do not contribute to sea level rise.  But the glaciers behind them, the same glaciers that are now racing toward the open ocean, do increase sea level. Ice can be swift and volatile.  Scientists now fear what could happen if the rising temperatures spread over West Antarctica.  Until recently this area was considered safe from rapid melting.  Now something has made them change their minds.  It is melting more than 100 times faster than expected. Scientists didn’t know why until recently. Using an unmanned robot submarine they found that the sea temperature was increasing – melting the ice sheet from below – eating at its underbelly.  It’s now believed that the melting of the Pine Island Glacier and the West Antarctic Ice shelf may be the biggest factor in sea level rise this century.  In 2007 the UN report on climate change estimated a 0.59 metre rise in sea levels by 2100. David Vaughn will be a lead author of the next 2014 IPCC report: “All projections of sea level rise, all projections of climate change are out of date as soon as they are published.”  If the threatened part of Pine Island goes, it alone could raise the world’s sea levels by 30 cm. But the great coastal cities of the world could be swamped by 5 metres of water if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet follows it. Other detailed measurements have confirmed that the ice shelf is melting right under the feet of the scientists.

For more, please view this BBC News report at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b011110v/Our_World_The_Vanishing_Antarctica/

This is available now through 13 May 2011

October 23, 2010: PEAK OIL CONFIRMED!

October 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Climate Change

Official confirmation: the world has hit PEAK OIL.

 

One the one hand, Russia has officially passed Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of oil.  The announcement this week indicated that last year and this year saw a 1 percent rise in Russian oil output. Russia has long been considered as having one of the world’s largest reservoirs of the black gold.  However, buried in an official report from Russia’s Energy Ministry was this bombshell: “it is clear that the country has no more than 25 per cent of its resources remaining to be extracted.”  Furthermore, Russian Oil “production is expected to DROP 20% within the decade.”  Russia has hit Peak Oil. So has Saudi Arabia – a fact known to oil insiders for over a decade.

Peak Oil is the point at which production drops because underground reserves become depleted.  Demand for oil will now outstrip supply and prices will rise. Perhaps, alarmingly. We’ve known it would be coming in the foreseeable future.  The most pessimistic estimates suggested we would reach that point between 2013 and 2016.  Like many predictions involving peak oil and climate change those prediction of future doom were wildly optimistic.  It’s happening much quicker than anticipated.

The classical definition of Peak Oil is the point at which 50% of extractable oil is reached after which oil production slows down and gradually trickles out altogether.  But the admission by the Russian Energy Ministry that “no more that 25 per cent of its resources remain to be extracted” is clear confirmation that we reached Peak Oil many years ago. That information has been withheld from the public.  It goes a long way to explain certain recent foreign policies of western nations over the last decade, as well as the scramble to explore polar seas for the last vestiges of the black death.  Oil will quickly become too valuable to burn.  It is the source for too many other essential materials such as plastics.

Experts had been expecting a gradual decline in production once peak oil was reached and a long period of readjustment to a renewable energy economy.  However, the Energy Ministry announcement that a mere 25% of the Russian oil resource remains is an indication that the decline may be precipitous.

Oil is a fossil fuel which when burned releases vast amounts of CO2 gas into the atmosphere causing global warming and climate change. It has long been recognised that renewable energy development (solar electricity, solar heating, offshore and onshore wind) is urgently needed to avoid economic and social catastrophe as fossil fuels are depleted. We thought we had more time. 

We don’t.

(C) 2010 HI Courier Ltd.  All Rights Reserved.

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