UK court says ‘retrospective’ solar cuts were legal

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The UK’s High Court has ruled that changes to support for large-scale solar projects in the UK were legal as it refused an application for a Judicial Review.

In May, the government launched a consultation to close the renewable obligation (RO) support scheme to projects over 5MW in size. This effectively forced large-scale projects to participate in the new contracts for difference (CfD) auctions, in competition with onshore wind and other “established technologies”.

The change came after the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in March that there would be no further review of the RO Certificate (ROC) banding. The review was requested by Lark Energy, Orta Solar Farms, Solarcentury and TGC Renewables with the support of Friends of the Earth.

“The decision to launch the Judicial Review was taken immediately following the 13 May announcement, which as it originally stood closed ROCs for solar in an unlawful way,” a spokesperson for the claimants said.

“We are pleased that as a result of our court action, DECC moved significantly during the consultation period and the proposed grace period criteria set out in the May consultation were relaxed in the consultation response on the 2 October.

“In court the judge agreed that DECC’s action had a retrospective impact, but ruled that it was fair for DECC to set a qualification deadline identical to the very first day of the consultation period, causing wasted capex for some developers. This ruling may have serious implications for the wider energy industry. We are considering whether to seek leave to appeal and will make a further statement in due course.”

Reacting to the news, a DECC spokesperson told PV Tech: “We welcome today’s judgment. Given the unexpectedly high levels of large-scale solar PV deployment we had to take steps to protect our budget in order to protect consumer bills. Solar continues to be an important part of the UK’s energy mix and we want to see this success story continue.”

Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association told PV Tech: “We are of course disappointed that four leading British solar companies have lost in the High Court. The court's decision in favour of DECC raises important issues of principle which will rightly be of concern to the entire renewables industry, not just solar. The Solar Trade Association has not been involved with this case and will not provide any further comment pending any decision by the companies to appeal.”

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