Friends of the Earth decide to lodge legal challenge after the government fails to withdraw its plans

Friends of the Earth will file a legal challenge to the government’s plan to cut the feed-in tariff for solar power.

The government failed to meet Friends of The Earth’s demand to shelve the plans by 4.00pm today.

The government plans to slash the tariff that home owners who install solar panels are paid for feeding their surplus electricity into the national grid from 43p per kWh to 21p per kWh from 12 December the year.

However, the consultation on the changes does not close until 23 December, which Friends of the Earth claims is illegal. Papers requesting a judicial review of the consultation will be filed on Monday.

Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s policy and campaigns director, said: “Ministers have failed to listen to our concerns about the legality of their plans to slash solar subsidies – we have now been left with no choice but to take the government to court.

“Slashing payments to any scheme completed after 12 December will unfairly pull the plug on thousands of clean energy schemes across the UK, preventing homes and communities from escaping soaring fuel bills.”

Friends of the Earth want to see tariffs maintained until 1 April 2012, when a new tariff was expected to come in and the consultation to be extended to 17 February 2012.

The 12 December cut off date is already subject to legal action from solar panel fitters Solarcentury, which has lodged an interim injunction against the government to stop it making the cut so soon.

Jeremy Leggett Chairman of Solarcentury said: “It is profoundly depressing that the greenest government ever has after just 18 months launched such an assault against a growing industry employing 25,000 people. The banks get eight years to change, we get less than eight weeks.”

Since it published its plans the government has received criticism from the industry for killing off green jobs and yesterday the director general of the Confederation of British Industry said the move undermined investor confidence in the sector.