Installing wind turbines and solar panels on homes should not necessarily require planning permission, the government has suggested.
Wind turbines are expected to become more popular
If there is little or no impact on neighbouring properties then homeowners should not have to apply to their council, Ruth Kelly said.
The communities secretary said planning laws should not be a barrier to tackling climate change.
Tory leader David Cameron had to remove a wind turbine from his home recently.
It was removed within days of being erected because builders had attached it to a wall rather than the chimney stack, as specified in the planning permission.
Ms Kelly, in a speech to environmental group the Green Alliance on Wednesday, said such "microgeneration" items should not be used as a "fashion accessory".
But with routine applications taking up to three months and costing as much as £1,000, she said: "The local planning system should support efforts to tackle climate change rather than acting as a barrier.
"We need changes to ensure the system is proportionate - whilst retaining clear, common-sense safeguards on noise, siting and size."
Her department said that under the proposals, which are open for consultation, members of the public will still need to check with their council about whether they can install the technology.
If all criteria are met then it can be installed without planning permission. If it does not meet the criteria then a planning application will have to be made.
Councils will be able to restrict planning permission in "exceptional" circumstances, such as where the impact on the neighbourhood is greater than the benefit.
"A wind turbine in a built-up area with little wind" would come under this category.
There are more than 100,000 microgeneration installations across the country - including wind and water source or ground source heat pumps - and that figure is expected to rise to more than 1.3 million by 2020.
Homes account for roughly a quarter of Britain's greenhouse gas output.
"We can only succeed if we match local action alongside global agreement. The real action to implement steps to a low-carbon economy and society has to take place at community level," Ms Kelly said.
She added: "Local business and councils also have a strong role.
"In many places local government has been ahead of national government - leading the debate, not following it.
"We must encourage further innovation and help ensure all councils meet the standards of the best."
In Chancellor Gordon Brown's Budget last month, he announced a 50% rise in money for household-scale microgeneration schemes.
The cash goes through a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) mechanism - the Low Carbon Buildings programme.
The DTI allocates money monthly; and in recent months, demand has been so high that grants have been disbursed within hours of becoming available.