The government is to make it easier for homeowners to install domestic renewable energy systems at their property by removing the need for planning consent in cases where there is little or no impact on neighbours. Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly says the document accompanying a government led public consultation into the plans sets out changes to the planning system to encourage the take-up of micro generation such as rooftop scale wind energy systems and solar panels. "This will play an essential part in helping us meet a significant proportion of our future energy needs," she says. Analysis by the BWEA, however, reveals that if the owners of one million out of 26 million homes installed a mini wind generator on the roof, the machines would contribute only a fraction of 1% to national power supply (Windpower Monthly, December 2006). Meantime, there is little sign of any commercial breakthrough in other micro generation technologies. People will need to think carefully about which type of technology best suits their local area. Local authorities will retain the right to restrict planning consent where the benefit of the technology is outweighed by its impact on the environment, says Kelly. "I believe that the local planning system should support efforts to tackle climate change rather than acting as a barrier, but it is important that we ensure that there are clear, common-sense safeguards on noise, siting and size and that the unique features of conservation areas are protected." There are currently some 100,000 micro generation systems installed in homes across the UK. The government plans to provide incentives to increase this number eightfold.
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Senior Renewable Energy Analyst (WindGEMINI Product Lead) DNV GL Bristol (City Centre), City of Bristol