UK Government paid out £60 million in damages to solar companies

A freedom of information request response from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has confirmed that the UK Government made approximately £60 million in payments to solar energy companies in the wake of early cuts to subsidies.

The website Solar Power Portal reports that: “Documents … reveal that the total cost of the settlement, fees not disclosed by the government and kept confidential by legal representatives on both sides of the case, was a combined sum of £59.975 million.”

Until now, law firm Asserson has not commented on the amount of money paid to the claimants, because the government had insisted that the settlement terms be kept confidential. However, in light of the government’s freedom of information response, the settlement sum is now public knowledge.

The litigation was brought against the BEIS proposal to bring forward the date of cuts to Feed-in Tariff’ subsidies to small-scale solar energy generation from the government’s publicised cut-off date of 1 April 2012 to 12 December 2011, a date before the end of the consultation on the proposal itself, and before the law making the change would be approved by Parliament. The proposal had disastrous consequences for the UK solar industry, with many companies becoming insolvent and others losing millions of pounds.

Trevor Asserson, senior partner at Asserson who ran the case, said: “This claim was triggered by an unlawful government decision to cut subsidies to the solar energy industry earlier than the government’s own published timetable. The outcome was a victory for the business sector and for human rights. This is by a significant margin the largest sum ever recovered on the basis of a Human Rights Act claim in the UK.

“The precedent set by this case gives businesses real protection in the event that government unlawfully interferes with their activities.”

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