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Solar subsidies will be dramatically cut by more than half, according to government documents that were prematurely published online and quickly taken down.

The cut will almost double the payback period for householders, the document revealed, meaning someone installing £10-12,000 solar panels will only be in credit after 18 years rather than the current 10. The rate will be reduced from 43.3p per kilowatt hour of solar electricity to just 21p, the document revealed, cutting returns from around 7% to 4%.

While the PDF on the Energy Saving Trust website noted that “these proposals are currently under consultation and are not final”, the figure is in line with earlier speculation that the rate will be cut by over half. It also said consumers considering solar should assume the 21p figure is what they will get if they install after 8 December.

Howard Johns, MD of Southern Solar, who spotted the document, tweeted: “It seems that EST know exactly what the outcome of the Fit review already – so much for consultation.” Toby Ferenczi, chief technology officer at solar company Engensa, wrote: “This isn’t acceptable and will result in massive job losses – don’t be fooled.”

The official announcement on the slashing of the feed-in tariff rate paid to householders looks set for Monday, with energy secretary Chris Huhne slated to make a statement in parliament, echoing tweets from the climate change minister, Greg Barker.

A department of energy and climate change spokesman said: “We’ll be publishing a full consultation on changes to the solar PV tariff changes in Parliament on Monday. The Energy Saving Trust inadvertently published a draft of documentation on its website that was neither final nor accurate.”

The news comes a day after the government signalled support for the 25,000 jobs in the fast-growing solar industry. Barker said the government wanted growth in solar panel installations to continue.

“We are determined not just to drive down carbon emissions but to build a successful, thriving, prosperous low-carbon economy,” he told a solar power conference in Birmingham.

“I’m personally committed to ensuring that your industry can prosper in the longer term, sustaining green jobs at a critical time for our economy, jobs that people can build a career on [and] that can help drive the recovery.”

Johns told the Guardian that the cuts would be a “disaster”. “If they go ahead with this, the tariff is way too low, and all the social housing and free solar schemes – which make the feed-in tariffs exciting in terms of fuel poverty – will be destroyed.” He added that this was the third government review into solar subsidies this year, saying “we’ve invested business in PV [solar photovoltaic panels] and had it sliced up three times in a year. They [the government] have no credibility on this any more.”

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