Postponement of solar tariff cuts welcomed

The region's renewable energy suppliers have welcomed a High Court ruling which postponed planned cuts to solar tariffs – but warned uncertain times still lay ahead for the industry.

East Anglia's domestic energy sector has grown dramatically in recent years as homeowners rushed to cash in on a government incentive guaranteeing a payment for every kilowatt generated by solar panels on their roofs.

But the burgeoning industry was thrown into panic on October 31 when energy minister Greg Barker announced the feed-in tariff (FIT) would be halved from 43p to 21p/kWh for systems up to 4kW registered after December 12.

The five-week deadline prompted an unprecedented rush for installations – and a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and two solar companies who said it was creating 'huge economic uncertainty'.

Last Wednesday, Mr Justice Mitting agreed the decision to set the deadline 11 days before the consultation into the scheme had finished was unlawful.

But after the government announced it would appeal against the ruling, the region's suppliers are once again anxiously awaiting confirmation of changes which could affect their customers and employees.

Damian Baker, managing director of RenEnergy at Blofield Heath, said: 'The renewables sector needs to certainly grow, but in order to do this successfully the industry needs to have clear timeframes and policies.

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'We are thrilled that the combined power of the solar industry and Friends of the Earth has been effective in calling the government to account for their unlawful behaviour in recent months, and hope this ruling has ensured the government will consider their future actions, and work towards offering more stability and clarity. Unfortunately we will not know the outcome of the review until January 2012, which means there is still short-term uncertainty.'

Mr Baker said if the government lost its appeal, a new 'eligibility date' would need to be set around the end of February.

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