High Court judge Mr Justice Mitting said that Government attempts to push through cuts on projects registered before the end of the consultation period on the proposals amounted to a breach of consultation rules.
Denying the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) the immediate right to appeal, the judge said the court was also amenable to a judicial review of the consultation, which could force the government to start the consultation process again, delaying the cuts and throwing the programme into further chaos.
The government wants to halve solar subsidies under the feed-in tariff on all installations eligible after 12 December, even though its own consultation on the proposals does not end until 23 December.
The move was challenged by campaign group Friends of the Earth and two solar firms, Solarcentury and HomeSun, which argued in court that the decision to impose cuts on installations before the end of the consultation process was “manifestly unlawful”, citing the damage already done to the industry in abandoned projects.
The three organisations welcomed the judge’s ruling, calling it a “win for honesty over illegality”.
But ministers remained defiant, confirming they would seek another hearing on the subject, with DECC lawyers planning to lodge an application to appeal by 4 January: “We disagree with the Court’s decision. We will be seeking an appeal and hope to secure a hearing as soon as possible,” said Greg Barker, minister for climate change and one of the most outspoken critics of the feed-in tariff.
Speaking to Renewable Energy Focus, a spokesman for DECC said it was “too early to say” what the timetable for the cuts would be in the immediate aftermath of the decision, although the Government would continue to collect views with its current consultation process.
Meanwhile HomeSun said it would be prepared to go to court again to defend the feed-in tariff. “We have to wait and see if the cuts will go ahead,” HomeSun chief executive Daniel Green told Renewable Energy Focus.
“HomeSun will always stand up for the rights of homeowners and fight on their behalf to free people from unfair and relentless energy price rises.”
Analysis: "Whilst no-one in the renewables industry was comfortable with the manner in which the latest PV tariff review was carried out, the implications of this decision could be very bad for those technologies benefitting from the feed in tariff..."