The Off-Grid campaign to change planning (zoning) laws to promote renewable energy received a boost in the UK.
The Government is poised announce measures to enable Britons to turn their homes into power stations. 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 energy announcement follows a promise by Gordon Brown in the Budget to give an extra 50m to help install micro-generation renewable technologies, such as windmills and solar cells, on schools and other public buildings.
The Energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, said: “The time has come to really push this to enable individual citizens to take action on global warming.” He and the Conservative leader, David Cameron, are already planning to install windmills on their roofs.
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.
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.
The D400 StealthGen, a minature wind turbine for the home. Solar voltaics, mini-wind turbines, ground source heat pumps, small hydro turbines, wood-chip boilers, mini combined heat and power (CHP) plants and hydrogen fuel cells are all in the spotlight.
Micro-power generation means any form that does not come via the wasteful wires of the National Grid, a system set up to relay power from coal fired stations in the 1930s.
Centralised power generation is estimated to waste two thirds of the energy produced in cooling and distribution. It is a crucial time for micro-power, with a Government-backed Bill on sustainable energy hanging in the balance and the Government’s microgeneration strategy due out later this month.
The advantage of micro-power is that it offers homes and businesses security that the lights or the heat will stay on in times of terrorist threat, power cuts or interruptions in Russian gas supplies. It is also far more efficient in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.
A micro-CHP unit, for example, will deliver the same heating levels as a modern gas condensing boiler, while also generating electricity. It can reduce the emissions of an average house by 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year and save about 150 from bills.
The Energy Saving Trust has calculated that microgeneration could reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from homes by 15 per cent by 2050. Its study shows microgeneration in all its forms could provide 30-40 per cent of the country’s electricity by then.
Dave Sowden, of the Micropower Council, said that replacing the present generation of nuclear power stations would only save a maximum of six per cent of carbon emissions by 2050.
Doug Parr, of Greenpeace, says that the stranglehold of the power utilities means that electricity generation is an “innovation free zone” in Britain.
Some modest steps toward changing that are in the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill, a private member’s Bill sponsored by Mark Lazarowicz, Labour MP for Edinburgh North & Leith.
It had successfully completed its committee stage and was expected to complete its final stages in the Commons on Friday.The Bill, which has Government support, sets national targets for microgeneration, amends the duties of the electricity regulator Ofgem and rewards customers who exported their electricity.However, after lengthy speeches by veteran Tory Bill-wreckers, Eric Forth and Christopher Chope, the Bill failed to complete its progress on Friday. It will now return to the Commons this Friday in another attempt to complete its Parliamentary passage. The questions campaigners are now asking are whether Mr Cameron can restrain his backbenchers and whether the Government will take microgeneration seriously enough to rescue the Bill by giving it Government time.
If it is not given time, bringing in measures under the Government’s microgeneration strategy could waste valuable months, even years.
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