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Homes to become mini power stations

Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor

MILLIONS of homes, schools and other public buildings could be turned into
micro power stations under proposals to promote renewable energy that will be
announced this week.

The scheme would see householders, schools and businesses offered grants to
install wind turbines, solar panels, “ground source heat pumps” (devices that
can extract energy from under lawns and flower beds)and other systems to
generate their own electricity and export it to the National Grid.

For some the scheme could even herald an end to electricity bills, because if
they generated more power than they consumed then power companies would have
to pay them for it.

Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, will give details of the scheme when he
launches the “microgeneration strategy”.

This follows last week’s budget in which the chancellor said that the
government would spend £50m on a low carbon buildings programme.

Wicks will go much further, publishing studies showing that microgeneration
could provide up to 40% of Britain’s electricity needs by 2050. “My vision is
that community buildings such as schools and hospitals will eventually all
have solar panels, wind turbines and other microgeneration systems to cut
power use. The same applies to homes,” he said.

The strategy is expected to see householders and others who adopt such
technologies early on being offered grants of up to 30% of the cost.

The idea is that the money will help Britain’s fledgling renewable energy
industry to expand and bring costs down to the point where subsidies are no
longer necessary.

Wicks’s proposals would also allow householders who generate green electricity
to claim “renewable obligation certificates”. These are a form of subsidy for
green electricity providers, more than doubling the income that they would
get from selling the power alone.

A typical householder with a wind turbine would be able to claim about
£50-£100 a year, enough to help to pay back the cost of installing such a
system in five years.

Wicks acknowledges that his proposals could have planning implications and
would change the appearance of buildings and whole areas if widely adopted.