Camden Council to cancel 1,000 solar panels after government cuts

Camden Council is set to pull the plug on plans to install solar panels on 1,000 properties after the government slashed green subsidies.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change announced last year that it was halving feed-in-tariffs, prompting a legal challenge from green groups and businesses that feared it would trigger a fall in demand for panels.

Camden’s cabinet member for sustainability warned the cuts have “damaged businesses” and could result in job losses.

Cllr Sean Birch said: “We had signed a contract to install solar panels in 1,000 street properties, and the fact that the government has changed the goal posts means this is not going to happen now. The council is going to be worse off because we were going to be generating revenues from the electricity at a time when money is scarce.

“This has damaged people’s livelihoods and damaged projects to cut carbon emissions.”

Feed-in-tariffs are the payments given for electricity produced by solar panels that goes back into the National Grid.

Consumers and companies were given just a few weeks notice that tariffs would be slashed from 43p to 21p per kilowatt from December 12 last year.

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The Court of Appeal yesterday (Wednesday 25) upheld a High Court decision which found the cuts were unlawful because they were brought in before the end of the official consultation, giving fresh hope to campaigners hoping the cuts might be reversed.

But the subsidy slash has already been felt in manby small firms.

Dermot Barnes, director of the Muswell Hill-based renewable energy firm Ecodomus, said: “We have had to make two of our eight employees redundant and the rest of us are on short hours. It has had a very damaging impact on the whole business.

“The feed-in-tariff was a very positive way of motivating people to invest in renewable energy and support an industry that otherwise wouldn’t get off the ground.”

Mr Barnes, who set up the company three and a half years ago, said he faces making more redundancies.

Martin Hurrell, a senior building conveyer at Bedford Estate, a property company based in Bloomsbury, said the cuts will have a “cooling effect” on many businesses that planned to install solar panels.

A Department of Environment and Climate Change spokeswoman said: “Our proposals allow social housing and local authority organisations to claim a tariff, which would provide around a five per cent rate of return on the investment, which is what the feed-in-tariff scheme was originally designed to generate.”

The department said they are “considering our options” following the Court of Appeal decision.