Making Your Own Energy Made Easier with New Rules; Relaxation in Planning Laws for Residents

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Byline: David Williamson

MANY households throughout Wales no longer have to seek planning permission if they want to install solar panels to generate their own electricity.

The Assembly Government hopes that by cutting red tape, more people will harness renewable energy to power their homes, leading to Wales' carbon emissions falling.

Equipment which comes under the new rules, which came into force yesterday, includes small-scale solar panels, ground source heat pumps and biomass flues.

It comes as research by the Energy Saving Trust suggests there is a growing willingness in Wales to support micro-generation.

It found a third (34%) of Welsh respondents said they would be willing to pay more for a home where some of their power supply came from renewable resources such as wind, solar or hydropower. Almost half of those surveyed (47%) said they would like to know whether their home was suitable for renewable energy.

But the research also found nearly two thirds (62%) of people found the price of renewable energy put them off investing in the technology.

Environmental groups welcomed the change in regulations which will mean that planning fees will no longer be required. There was concern, however, that wind energy is not covered, that the costs associated with installations remain prohibitive for many, and that the priority should be reducing energy consumption. Alex Randall of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth said: "A point worth making is that we always encourage people to think about micro-generation in their own home after they have been through a long checklist of other things. It's far better to reduce energy use than it is to generate more energy - it's easier and cheaper."

Mr Randall said people who did have cash to invest in changes to their home should spend it on insulation.

He said: "The cost payback is quicker and the amount of carbon dioxide they will save is greater. Do those things first and then think about micro-generation."

Gordon James of Friends of the Earth Cymru was glad to see the relaxation of rules but added: "The disappointment is wind energy isn't included."

He argued that small turbines would not cause noise problems if there was a rule ensuring an adequate distance was required from any neighbouring house.

"One of the biggest barriers is the economic factor," he said. "We would like to see better grants available to do this. The threat of climate change is so severe we really need bold measures enabling people to cut their carbon emissions."

Environment Minister Jane Davidson said: "A key part to tackling climate change will be lessening our reliance on carbon based energy. This is where micro-generation has a major role to play. It gives households the opportunity to produce their own clean, green energy. …