Turn your home into a mini power station

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The Independent Online

Ministers will this week announce new measures to enable Britons to turn their homes into power stations, generating the electricity they need to run them and feeding the rest into the grid.

The policies will make it easier for families to put mini-windmills and solar cells on their roofs, and oblige the electricity companies to buy their surplus power.

The Government hopes Wednesday's announcement will mitigate disappointment at another set of measures - on fighting global warming - being unveiled the day before.

The energy announcement follows a promise by Gordon Brown in the Budget to give an extra £50m to help install "microgeneration" renewable technologies, such as windmills and solar cells, on schools, hospitals and other public buildings. In this way, the Government hopes to kick-start mass production and bring down the cost of the technology for everyone.

The energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, told The Independent on Sunday: "The time has come to really push this to enable individual citizens to take action on global warming."

The measures are intended to pave the way for householders to adopt clean energy installations without planning permission. Mr Wicks says he expects electricity companies to pay a good price for power bought from homes, and will investigate if they do not.

He and the Conservative leader, David Cameron, are already planning to install windmills on their roofs.

The £50m initiative will be welcomed by the Micropower Council, which represents the sustainable energy industry, and by environmental groups. But the latter will be deeply unhappy with new plans aimed at cutting the pollution that causes global warming. These have been drawn up because the Government is on course to miss its target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. In fact, emissions have increased since Labour came to power.

Measures proposed by environment ministers have been blocked by the Department of Trade and Industry. Tony Blair failed to support them despite repeatedly naming climate change as the world's most serious long-term threat.