Commitments to pay for solar subsidies exceed the funding available by around a third

The budget to pay for the solar feed-in tariff is overspent by £31m, the latest government figures have revealed.

Controversy has surrounded the government’s plans to slash the subsidy paid to those who install solar power in half from 43p per kWh to 21p perkWh.

The government has argued this measure was necessary to protect the budget so more installations could benefit from the subsidy.

But energy minister Greg Barker’s supplementary answers to the Energy and Climate Change and Environmental Audit select committees, submitted after he appeared before them in December, show the programme’s budget was already overspent by around 30% at the end of November 2011.

The figure now is likely to be higher given the rush of installations which took place to meet the government’s 12 December cut-off date for eligibility for the higher tariff.

The figures show that even though the FIT budget had been revised upwards to £94m for the 2011-12 year it is still drastically overspent.

At the end of November the scheme was committed to pay out £125m this year for completed installations.

“This is a result of a poorly managed process and they should take the cost on the chin,” said Donna Hume, campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

She said the government could have acted earlier to review the FIT for all sizes of installations in the summer of 2011, when it reviewed only large scale installations.

“We have always called for a more ambitious scheme. The problem is with the level of ambition, which meant when they capped the budget it was done at far too low a level,” she added.

In December, a high court judge ruled the government’s plans to slash the FIT were illegal because eligibility for the higher rate ended on 12 December before the consultation on the plans closed on the 23rd.

However, a government appeal of that decision is set to be heard on Friday 13 January.