Friends of the Earth is threatening legal action against the government over plans to cut solar panel subsidies.
The environmental campaign charity has written to the climate change minister, Greg Barker, to say that unless the government amends proposals to reduce the feed-in tariff payments made to buildings generating electricity through solar panels by 4pm on 11 November, it will start court proceedings.
Friends of the Earth believes the government’s actions are unlawful because it had previously said the payments would remain unchanged until April 2012. It fears that projects planned for between December and April could be abandoned.
In the letter Friends of the Earth calls on the government to maintain current tariff payments for existing projects until April 2012 and to extend the consultation period until February 2012.
Policy and campaigns director Craig Bennett said: “The government is breaking the law with its plans to fast-track a solar industry kill-off – as well as jeopardising thousands of jobs and countless clean energy projects across the country.”
Announcing the proposals at the end of October, which would affect installations completed after 12 December this year, Barker said it was necessary so that the solar industry “doesn’t fall victim to boom and bust”.
He added: “The plummeting costs of solar mean we’ve got no option but to act so that we stay within budget and not threaten the whole viability of the feed-in tariffs scheme.”
A statement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We’re consulting on proposed new tariffs for a reason – to protect consumers from footing the bill for excessive subsidies. This is a live consultation and it will be open for people to comment until 23 December.”
It confirmed that it had received two letters threatening legal action which it would respond to “in due course”. It would not say who the scond letter was from.
Housing association solar programme in doubt
The Peabody housing association’s solar scheme is one project that has announced it will have to reduce its solar panel scheme.
It had developed a solar scheme as a key part of its strategy to help residents reduce fuel costs and stay out of fuel poverty but now thinks it will have to cut the number it installs by about 50 per cent.
Chief executive of Peabody, Stephen Howelett, said there were also wider implications: “If we cut short our scheme, contractor jobs will be lost and Peabody jobs will be lost. We had planned to place young apprentices within our scheme. These too will be lost.”
He added that investor confidence may be the “greatest cost” and that: “We are very concerned that investors will be reluctant to get behind green initiatives.”