Highbury businessman forced to axe staff over solar panel subsidy cut

An electrician who invested his life savings to set up his dream solar panel business could be left with nothing because of new government policy.

Russell Lyne, 31, who lives in Highbury Quadrant, Highbury, spent two years saving and took out a bank loan to raise the �25,000 he needed to set up UK Solar Generation.

A government initiative, called the Feed In Tariff (FIT), means people are paid for the electricity they generate, which leads to cheaper fuel bills.

As people took advantage of this, Mr Lyne’s business was booming and was able to employ two people full time.

But on December 12, the government slashed the FIT by more than 50 per cent, from 43p per kilowatt-hour to 21p.

As a result, Mr Lyne’s custom dropped off so dramatically he had to let both members of staff go and now he is worried he won’t be able to pay back the bank.

He said: “It was heartbreaking letting the lads go, but I had no choice.

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“Demand went through the roof in December, before the cuts came in, but after that work has been really scarce.

“All the projected returns for the company were shot to pieces and I am struggling to pay back the bank loan.

“What should be a successful company is only breaking even.”

The High Court ruled against the change in tariffs and the Court of Appeal upheld the decision last month.

But the government says it will take the case to the Supreme Court, leaving both customers and businesses like UK Solar Generation in limbo.

Mr Lyne added: “There is now this ridiculous uncertainty as no one knows what tariff they get until the hearing – whenever that is.

“It’s still a good investment but people aren’t sure what deal they’re getting and nobody wants that.”

In December, Islington Council passed a motion to condemn the cut in the tariff.

Cllr Catherine West, leader of Islington Council, then wrote to Chris Huhne, then secretary of state for energy and climate change, asking him to reconsider the decision.