Judge orders urgent hearing into challenge to cuts in solar subsidy

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A judge has ordered an urgent hearing of a High Court challenge over Government plans to cut financial incentives for solar electricity.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth and two solar companies – Solarcentury and HomeSun – won the go-ahead to seek a ruling that the proposals are unlawful.

The case centres on Government plans to cut feed-in tariff subsidies – payments made to households and communities that generate green electricity through solar panels – on any installations completed after Monday this week.

Mr Justice Mitting, sitting in London, said yesterday the proposals had given rise to “economic risk” for those engaged in the solar industry and the challenge should be heard as a matter of urgency next week.

Friends of the Earth and the solar panel companies argue the December deadline, which comes before the end of a statutory consultation exercise, is fundamentally flawed.

The group says the move could cost tens of thousands of jobs and bankrupt businesses and has already led to unfinished or planned projects being abandoned.

The judge said the application for judicial review against Energy Secretary Chris Huhne should be heard next Tuesday and Wednesday as it seemed to him an immediate risk had been created “for those who are installing solar panels after December 12”.

The judge added: “There is a decision which is susceptible to challenge, even if consultation leaves open the possibility that a different (deadline) date may ultimately be chosen.”

A recent report estimated the changes could cost up to 29,000 jobs and lose the Treasury up to £230m a year in tax income.

Construction firm Carillion recently warned 4,500 workers that their jobs are at risk.

John Faulks, Solarcentury’s company secretary, said: “A cut of over 50 per cent that occurred in just six weeks and before the end of a consultation period is cynical and irrational.”

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