The UK government could face legal action by the European Commission over its plans to dramatically cut feed-in tariffs for solar installations and introduce energy efficiency requirements for buildings whose owners are seeking the incentives.
Energy commissioner Günther Oettinger has confirmed that legal proceedings would be launched if changes to the feed-in tariff scheme threatened progress towards the UK's binding EU target to supply 15 % of its energy from renewable sources.
Mr Oettinger added that legal action would be taken against any member state which weakened its policies in such a way that they threatened progress towards their green energy targets. He also confirmed that the EU had already been in contact with the UK government over the consultation stage of its plans.
The UK government has consistently maintained that changes to the incentives are necessary to stop the feed-in tariff scheme exceeding its budget, and that the cuts will not threaten the UK's renewable energy or emission reduction targets.
But Green MEP Jean Lambert, who in November urged the EC to investigate UK FIT cuts, said in a statement that the UK's current plans, which will more than halve feed-in tariffs and place a requirement on buildings to meet energy efficiency standards before receiving feed-in tariffs, will put thousands of jobs at risk in the solar industry and cause bankruptcies.
"Under the Commission's ruling, the UK is prevented from making amendments to support schemes which could jeopardise the renewables industry, yet sudden, drastic cuts to the tariff will strip away investor confidence, reduce the market for solar companies across the country, and threaten jobs," she said.
She challenged the UK government to prove that its plans to slash the subsidy will not stop the UK from delivering 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 as required under an EU directive.
Earlier it emerged that the UK's High Court had refused to proceed with legal action by Friends of the Earth and two solar power firms seeking to block the deep cuts to feed-in tariffs.