Campaigners urge Government to drop solar court case

11th January 2012
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For immediate release: 11 January 2012

Campaigners are urging the Government to drop its appeal against last month’s High Court ruling that its solar cuts are illegal, a move that is jeopardising thousands of jobs and will land the taxpayer with a legal bill of tens of thousands of pounds.

The appeal, which is being heard on Friday 13 January, follows a High Court ruling that the Government’s plans to rush through sudden cuts to solar payments [1] were illegal after a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and two solar firms, Solarcentury and HomeSun. [2]

Friends of the Earth was instrumental in persuading the Government to introduce a feed-in tariff – a financial incentive for households and communities to generate their own renewable electricity – and more than 100,000 solar panel projects have been installed since its introduction in April 2010.

The premature cuts could cost up to 29,000 jobs and lose the Treasury up to £230 million a year in tax income. [3]  Last month construction firm Carillion warned 4,500 workers their jobs are at risk because of the Government’s proposals, and the CBI has condemned the move as an “own goal” by Ministers. [4]

Friends of the Earth’s Final Demand campaign is calling on the Government to urgently rethink its proposals. [5]  Over 200 MPs, councils and other organisations have signed a joint statement in support of the campaign, including Manchester City Council, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and local MPs John Leech, Tony Lloyd and Hazel Blears. [6]  In addition, more than 21,000 members of the public have signed an online petition asking the Government to keep supporting clean British energy. [7]

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said:

“I am deeply concerned by the dropping of the Feed-In Tariff proposed by Government. Manchester City Council had a number of Solar PV projects in development that would have installed solar panels on three of its buildings by the end of March 2012. The authority has now had to withdraw two of these projects and the last is being re-evaluated due to the high risk now posed by the Feed-In Tariff review.

“In addition, the proposed timing of the change has had a major impact on the Solar PV programme being delivered by Manchester City Council and our ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation), Northwards Homes. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of panels being installed, with 1400 households in some of our most deprived neighbourhoods missing out on the benefit of free electricity.

“This is deeply disappointing as significant time and effort had been spent developing these projects, which would have supported the development of low-carbon jobs and demonstrated our local action on climate change by cutting carbon emissions and reducing energy costs.”

Todd Holden, spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said:

“As well as playing a significant role in our move away from the current centralised, insecure, carbon intensive energy supply system, the uptake of small scale PV helps raise awareness and changes people’s view of how we all use energy.

“While still in its infancy this is a large, high growth sector with great potential, it needs to be nurtured to succeed.  The changes as proposed not only put this sector at severe risk but also risk undermining the Government’s flagship Green Deal programme.”

Stephen Beech, owner of Manchester-based Beech Properties [8], said:

“This is having a massive impact on us as a solar installer as we’ve recently taken on new staff to carry out installations with our order book increasing daily. We’ve now been forced to lay off these staff and cancel orders with our suppliers.

“Also, as a landlord, it prevents us developing any more energy efficient properties. We won the UK’s best energy efficient refurbishment award this year by increasing our properties’ energy efficiency (EPC) rating from a G to an A. This announcement effectively stops us renovating any more as I simply couldn’t afford to do so.

“As well the negative effect this has on my business, it will disappoint the hundreds of tenants who are queuing up for energy efficient properties to lessen the impact of spiralling energy prices.”

Charlie Baker from the Carbon Co-op [9] said:

“This cut at such notice tears up the business plans of organisations like the Carbon Co-op that are vital to getting communities to work together to deliver the much needed cuts in emissions and the even more needed jobs that go with them. What message does this send out about this Government’s commitment to localism?

“It is crucial that cuts differentiate between making money and making change.  It is fair that the former is reduced but the latter is too important.  The new rates must reflect this difference so that groups that can prove that they are recycling money to fund further carbon reduction work receive a rate that enables that to continue.”

John Leech MP said:

“Solar has been the real success story for the renewable industry. We can’t afford to jeopardise thousands of jobs by slashing the feed in tariff and creating uncertainty, giving the industry no time to adjust.”

Tony Lloyd MP said:

“These rushed and ill-thought through plans will put thousands of jobs and businesses in the solar industry at risk, make it much more difficult for families, community groups, hospitals and schools to install solar power. This puts lie to the Prime Minister’s promise to be the Greenest Government ever and are evidence of just how out of touch this Government is.

“I can assure you that I will continue to oppose the devastating attack on Feed-in Tariffs and push for a fairer deal for the people of Britain on energy prices.”

Ali Abbas, lead climate campaigner at Manchester Friends of the Earth, said:

“We’re delighted that politicians, community groups and businesses across Greater Manchester are backing our Final Demand campaign. 

“Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money fighting this in the courts, the Government should admit it was wrong and take steps to safeguard thousands of solar jobs and enable more homes, businesses and communities to plug into clean energy. 

“If you’d like to add your voice to the campaign, you can sign our online petition at www.foe.co.uk/finaldemand.”

ENDS

 

PHOTOS AVAILABLE

L-R: Ali Abbas (Manchester Friends of the Earth), Sir Richard Leese (Manchester City Council), Todd Holden (Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce) and Jonathan Atkinson (Carbon Co-op) send a message to the Government.

[flickr id=”6509920929″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”true” size=”large” group=”” align=”none”]

More photographs are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterfoe/sets/72157628415655991/

 

CONTACT FOR COMMENT

Ali Abbas, Manchester Friends of the Earth, 07786 090520

 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

1. On Monday 31 October 2011 the Government launched a public consultation on plans to slash small-scale solar power subsidies by more than 50 per cent, which would see the number of solar panels installed each year fall by between 50 and 95 per cent. http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn11_091/pn11_091.aspx

2. On Wednesday 21 December 2011, the High Court ruled that proposals to cut payments for any solar scheme completed after 12 December – 11 days before the official consultation closed – were unlawful.  The judge refused permission to appeal, given that it would have no realistic prospect of success.  A working transcript of the court proceedings is available from Friends of the Earth’s press office – 020 7566 1649.

3. In November 2011, research by Element Energy, commissioned by Friends of the Earth and the solar industry, showed that the premature cuts could threaten 29,000 jobs and lose the Treasury up to £230 million a year in tax income.  It showed that additional costs to lift the cap off the scheme will be more than equalled by extra tax receipts to the exchequer and saving on unemployment benefit that would have been paid to sacked solar fitters.

http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefing_notes/element_energy_summary.pdf

4. The Government’s decision to slash solar funding was described by the CBI as an ‘own goal’ (Thursday 10 November 2011)

http://www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre/speeches/2011/11/john-cridlands-speech-to-cbi-east-midlands-annual-dinner/

5. Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to:

  • Establish a system which enables feed-in tariff payments to fall from mid February 2012, in line with the falling cost of solar technology, in a way that supports the continued growth of the industry and jobs;
  • Increase the overall budget for feed-in tariffs using tax revenues generated by jobs created by the scheme – this will enable more households to benefit from solar power;
  • Exclude housing association, school, council and other community projects from the damaging proposal to give multi-building projects even lower financial support;
  • Only require solar projects on homes to install loft and cavity wall insulation where possible – rather than imposing much tougher energy efficiency conditions which would make 9 out of 10 householders ineligible for the scheme.

6. The joint statement can be found at: http://bit.ly/solarjointstatement

The following signatories are from Greater Manchester:

Hazel Blears MP, Paul Goggins MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Julie Hilling MP, John Leech MP, Tony Lloyd MP, Michael Meacher MP, Lisa Nandy MP, Action for Sustainable Living, Beech Properties, Carbon Co-op, Cooler, Creative Concern, Didsbury Park Properties, DOC Solar & Electrical Solutions Ltd, EMERGE, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Kindling Trust, Levenshulme Community Association, Manchester City Council, Manchester Environmental Education Network, MERCi, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Urban Splash.

7. The Final Demand online petition can be found at: http://www.foe.co.uk/finaldemand

8. Beech Properties won the Green Landlord of the Year at the 2011 Landlord & Lettings Awards and was highly commended in the Energy Excellence Award category at the 2011 Global Energy Institute (EI) Awards. For more information, visit http://www.beechproperties.co.uk

9. The Carbon Co-op aims to make it simple, cheap and easy for households, streets and neighbourhoods to come together to retrofit their houses through the purchase of low-carbon and energy-saving equipment. For more information, visit http://carbon.coop.

10. Manchester Friends of the Earth is an award-winning environmental campaign group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations.  Up-to-date information is available on the group’s website: https://www.manchesterfoe.org.uk  Manchester Friends of the Earth is a Licensed Local Group of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

11. Manchester Friends of the Earth has endorsed Manchester: A Certain Future, an action plan for the city of Manchester to cut its carbon emissions by at least 41% by 2020.  For more information, visit http://www.manchesterclimate.com