The Government will now be able to cut FIT rates for solar energy schemes that are installed from 3 March while the appeal is considered.
The solar industry was left reeling – and 30,000 jobs thrown into jeopardy – when the Government announced plans last year to abruptly cut payments for any solar scheme completed after 12 December 2011.
This was 11 days before an official consultation into the proposals had even closed.
Following a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and solar firms Solarcentury and HomeSun the High Court ruled that the Government’s plans were illegal.
The judge said ministers could only alter the payments after going through Parliamentary procedures – allowing industry time to plan for change.
Last week the Government challenged the ruling in the Court of Appeal, and a decision is due within the next few weeks.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “I know this is a difficult time for the sector and I want to do as much as I can to end the current uncertainty created by the legal challenge.
“We must reduce the level of FITs for solar panels as quickly as possible, to protect consumer bills and to avoid bust in the whole Feed-in Tariff budget.
He added: “We’re appealing against the court ruling that’s challenged our proposal for a December reference date.
“This remains our aim, and we are waiting for the judgment of the Court of Appeal. But this is too important for us to sit and do nothing while we wait.
“Today we’re putting in place a contingency that will bring a 21p rate into effect from April for installations from 3 March.
He added: “However, we are still pressing ahead with our appeal and if successful, we retain the option of introducing a December reference date.
“In the circumstances we believe this gives the industry as much certainty as is possible. And it puts us in a better position to protect the budget for everyone involved.”
Further information on the Government’s response to the FITs consultation, together with a summary of responses, is also being published today on the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s website.
Barker added: “We are intending to announce the outcome of the consultation by 9 February, in time for any resulting legislative changes to come into effect from 1 April.
“Our aim is that this announcement will be accompanied by a set of reform proposals for the next phase of the comprehensive review of the FITs scheme, which will be the subject of a further consultation.”