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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 19:18 GMT
Tory plans for home power sources
Solar panels being fitted on a roof
The Tories say small-scale energy is more efficient
Homeowners would be encouraged to generate their own energy under plans to be announced by the Conservatives.

The party wants to encourage more small-scale electricity generation at homes, schools and hospitals in a bid to tackle climate change.

The Tories' new energy policy would make it easier for people to buy and install renewable power equipment.

The plans would also allow homeowners to sell the generated electricity to energy companies at a fixed price.

The Conservatives say much of the electricity Britain's big power stations create is wasted, lost travelling along the wires to the consumer.

Expensive technology

They claim it would be more efficient to get people to make their own energy using, for example, biomass, solar or the combined heat and power boilers that will be on the market in a few years' time.

Because the technology is expensive, the Tories are proposing to force energy companies to take electricity from domestic and other small-scale generators, and guarantee a fixed price for several years.

Conservative leader David Cameron said: "By enabling people to generate their own electricity, we are literally giving them more power over their lives.

"This really is power to the people. Once people start generating their own electricity they also become more conscious of the way in which they use it.

"They will therefore become more responsible about energy use and their own environmental impact."

BBC environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee says this kind of "feed-in tariff" has been successful in increasing small-scale renewable power in other European countries.

'Ambitious strategy'

But Malcolm Wicks, Labour's energy minister, argued that "to produce the bulk low-carbon energy we need for the decades to come in the most cost-effective way, we need to consider all the options, not just micro-turbines".

"With around 120 million in grants set aside since 2002 for homes, schools, charitable bodies and businesses to generate their own energy, the government's microgeneration credentials are beyond doubt," he added.

"Our ambitious strategy includes further support to microgeneration through reform of our 'renewables obligation', removing planning constraints and a commitment for zero-carbon homes by 2016."

And industry experts say while the Conservatives have come up with some interesting ideas, they could take decades to come to fruition.

Dave Timms, economics campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Whilst an excellent policy, a feed-in tariff alone will not create a low-carbon energy system.

"We need to see the Conservatives bring forward additional policies to set out a comprehensive vision of how we will power our economy in the future."

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