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Final court defeat for UK government over solar FIT cut bid

The UK government reached the end of the road in its legal fight over cuts to solar feed-in-tariffs (FITs) when the country’s Supreme Court refused to hear its latest appeal over the issue.

The decision leaves in place an earlier verdict that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) acted unlawfully by trying to retroactively cut payments for small-scale solar systems installed between 12 December 2011 and 4 March this year.

Those who connected systems to the grid in that period will now get the £0.43/kWh they were originally promised rather than the £0.21 the DECC tried to impose, claiming the cut was needed to stop the solar support scheme being bled dry of money.

The refusal of the UK’s highest court to hear the government’s appeal marks the end of an unhappy episode in recent renewable energy policy, which saw the DECC accused of badly mishandling the issue of solar support and lose three times in court.

The legal action was brought by a group of solar panel installers in conjunction with environmental campaigners.

However, although the ruling will be welcomed by those in the narrow installation timeband ruled eligible for the higher rate – and sets down a legal marker against retroactive FIT reduction – things have moved on since the planned cuts were first announced last October.

Lower rates are now in place for new installations since 4 March, and the DECC and Energy Secretary Ed Davey are currently consulting on plans for a new German-style regime that would link support levels to capacity additions and declines in system costs.

Davey’s predeccesor Chris Huhne, who instigated the series of legal appeals, has since resigned to concentrate on his own court battle against charges of perverting the course of justice.