Brits Bringing Micropower to the People!

In April, a reader tipped us off that the British government was consulting with advisory group the Sustainable Consumption Roundtable on using microgeneration technologies to make Brits more aware of their household energy consumption. A BBC commentary by SCR co-chair Alan Knight noted that the group would report to the government in May on its findings. It's likely not too great a leap to assume that the report took a favorable view of home and building owners generating their own power through renewable sources: The Observer reported yesterday that the government is prepared do away with planning restrictions that currently keep British citizens wrapped up in red tape if they want to install a wind turbine or solar panels on their homes:

Micro-generation is seen by the government and environmental experts as having an important role in the country's energy mix. Research by the Energy Saving Trust suggests micro-generation could provide 30-40 per cent of the UK's electricity needs by 2050.

But turning your home into a mini-power station has until now largely been the preserve of the well-off. Hollywood stars such as Brad Pitt, Darryl Hannah, Salma Hayek and Sir Ian McKellen have all installed solar panels or wind turbines at their homes. At upwards of £3,000, plus the expense of applying for planning consent, such energy-saving devices do not come cheap.

Many local authorities insist householders apply for planning consent. 'It is patently absurd that you should be able to put a satellite dish on your house but have to wrestle with the planning process for small-scale micro-generation, which is no more obtrusive and can have a real impact on tackling climate change,' Yvette Cooper, the planning minister, told The Observer

'We want much more micro-generation to be treated as permitted development. We are reviewing the impact of a wide range of technologies so we can take account of things such as the impact on neighbours or listed buildings before consulting on details later this year.'

Gideon Amos, director of the Town and Country Planning Association, welcomed government plans: 'We're moving into an era of localised renewable energy. Current planning regulations were designed for a different era.'

Just as in the US, opposition groups have arisen claiming that such installations will create visual pollution: even famed green Conservative MP David Cameron has received grief from his neighbors for wanting to install a small wind turbine on his home. The Government seems firm in its resolve, though, and has also created a grant fund for microgeneration. Those grants have proven so popular that many worry the annual allotment of £3.5 million will only last for five months of the year. :: The Observer via The Eco-Street Blog

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