At the end of last week, Solar Century, HomeSun and environmental group Friends of the Earth won permission to seek a ruling in the High Court that the decision to slash FITs payments was unlawful.
Mr Justice Mitting recognised the “economic risk” that solar companies face as a result of the sudden cuts announced, and allowed the three claimants a full hearing on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
The hearing will consider two points raised by the claimants – asking whether the “eligibility date” of 12th December (11 days before the end of the consultation period) means the change is retrospective and if so, whether a retrospective change is legal. He will also examine whether the changes breach property rights under the European Charter of Human Rights.
The three claimants had also argued that the changes were disproprotionate, and that the consultation was unlawful because Ministers had effectively decided the outcome before the consultation was completed. The judge did not rule out future challenges on these points, but told the court that gathering the necessary evidence to hear these claims would mean delaying any hearing until some time in the New Year.
The court room was pretty full to hear the case – though a few more people could have squeezed in. If you are interested in watching the full hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, the hearing on Tuesday will run from 10.30am to 4.30pm, and on Wednesday from 10.30-1pm at the latest. The court number is not yet allocated, but ask at the information desk when you arrive, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass on details as soon as I have them. As before, I will let you know of any last minute changes to the timing of the case, and also keep a running tally to warn you if the room is looking massively over-subscribed.
Certainty on selling at 21p?
There remains confusion over whether or not the 21p rate proposed in the consultation for domestic installations between 12th December and April could change as a result of the ongoing consultation. Fears have been raised about what would happen if an installations was sold with income projections using the 21p figure, only to find the Government reduce the rate still further at the end of the consultation.
The result from Government has been more fudge – heavy hints that this is a minimum, with talk of a “high chance of certainty” that the figure would not go down. Minister Greg Barker even took to twitter to try and clarify matters – but still left them ambiguous.
It has even been suggested that Ministers would have made the date certain, but decided not to as a result of the court case mentioned above being given the go ahead. This is despite the hearing making any legal challenge on predetermination less likely, not more likely.
It is worth telling your MP the further problems this is causing for you – the more MPs realise what a mess has been made of this process the better.
Joint Select Committee report due later this week
Finally, later this week a Joint Select Committee report will be published on the reductions to FITs tariffs. It important to ensure that your MPs see the key conclusions – so keep an eye open here for details and make sure you send them on to your MP early in the New Year. By raising the matter with them, they are much more likely to be aware of the findings of the cross-party Committees.