Energy companies, high street banks and consumer finance companies were challenged today (Tues) by Climate Change and Environment Minister Ian Pearson to develop low-cost finance schemes to help boost take-up of household microgeneration.

Such a scheme would complement measures outlined in the Government's Microgeneration Strategy, published by the Department of Trade and Industry, aimed at stimulating widespread take-up of these technologies. Mr Pearson said it should be as easy to get finance for a wind turbine as a sofa.

"The Government's recent microgeneration strategy, published by the DTI, highlighted the high up-front cost as a barrier to greater take-up of household wind turbines and solar panels. "Everywhere you look these days, there are adverts for sofas, electric goods and kitchens - all offering interest free credit or easy long-term loans. Yet, there are no such offers for microgeneration.

"I passionately believe that it should be as easy to get finance for a wind turbine as it is for a sofa. This could be through credit or loans, or it could be an energy service contract with the cost rolled up with a customer's energy bills. Green mortgages or long-term leasing are other options that could be taken up. "My challenge today to the high street banks and consumer finance companies, energy suppliers and others is to work with the microgeneration companies to come up with new, innovative offerings."

Speaking at the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy Conference in London , Mr Pearson said: "As well as being a very visible, iconic measure, microgeneration can play a key role both to reduce carbon emissions and as a tool to engage people and help them become energy-aware consumers." He added that microgeneration was just one example of the three-pronged approach the Government was taking to reducing carbon emissions, which incudes:

* Taking the carbon out of the energy supply system as we move towards zero and low-carbon energy supply and distributed generation.

* Using energy more efficiently through more efficient, better designed buildings, vehicles and appliances, and

* Reducing the demand for energy services - by changing behaviour and avoiding waste.

Mr Pearson highlighted the Government's commitment in the Energy Review to improve energy standards for products and buildings and its desire to remove the worst products from the market. Commenting on the progress of the Energy Efficiency Commitment, which has proved to be one of the most successful instruments in reducing carbon emissions, Mr Pearson said he was delighted to hear of Scottish and Southern Energy's announcement that they will be committing to insulate an additional 50,000 homes by the end of 2007.

"Ensuring a smooth transition for the next phase of the Energy Efficiency Commitment is absolutely vital if the energy efficiency industry is to be ready to deliver even higher levels of activity in 2008.

"I am delighted to hear that SSE will be committing to tackle an additional 50,000 homes, with two thirds of those in priority homes, by the end of 2007. This is exactly the sort of contribution we are looking for from the industry, " he added.