Energy secretary says cut to feed-in-tariff will come into effect on 3 March - if the government loses its legal battle

Ministers have proposed an alternative date for the government’s cut to the feed-in-tariff, should it lose its legal battle.

In a statement to Parliament, energy secretary Chris Huhne said the government stood by its plans to slash the feed-in-tariff (FIT) for solar electricity from 43p per kWh to 21p per kWh from 12 December - a move subsequently ruled illegal by the High Court after a challenge by Friends of the Earth and solar firms.

The legal challenge and appeal have caused uncertainty in the industry, with some solar firms complaining that they are unable to sell their products and services.

In a bid to ease some of the uncertainty, Huhne said if the government lost its appeal, it would introduce the cut in the FIT rate on 3 March, rather than 12 December.

He said: “I know that the uncertainty while we await the court’s decision is difficult for the industry.

“We are therefore laying before Parliament today some draft licence modifications which, subject to the parliamentary process set out in the Energy Act 2008, makes provision for a reduced tariff rate (from 1 April 2012 onwards) for new PV installations with an eligibility date on or after 3 March.”

Huhne added that the outcome of the government’s consultation on its plans would be published by 9 February, in time for any resulting legislative changes to come into effect from 1 April.

Andy Atkins, executive director at Friends of the Earth, said that “at last” the government was “taking steps to sort out some of the uncertainty that’s crippling a thriving UK industry - planned cuts will at last allow solar firms to start planning for the future.

“Solar payments should be cut in line with falling costs - but by trying to rush through payment before the consultation closed ministers created a shambolic mess that threatens 30,000 jobs and the future of the industry,” he said.