In one of the most unlikely environmental announcements to date, Peter Hain will change the Building Regulations to ensure all new homes, company and public buildings in the province make micro-generation mandatory in less than two years.
Launching the ambitious £8 million renewable energy household programme, Hain claimed Northern Ireland is leading the UK in 'green energy'.
'The programme is another important milestone in the promotion of renewable energy in Northern Ireland.
'It puts in place an initiative that will stimulate renewable energy at household level and effectively initiate a programme of micro-generation development for the future.
'Planned amendments to the Building Regulations will make micro-generation mandatory in new builds from April 2008. This comprehensive range of measures puts Northern Ireland in a good position to develop its renewable energy options,' he said.
Under the new programme, some families on low incomes and social housing could benefit from renewable energy, with the Department of Social Development providing 100 per cent grant assistance to install solar hot-water systems to 500 homes.
A further 4,000 households will receive grants of up to 50 per cent to cover the cost of installing the systems.
At present it is unclear what penalties will be incurred should any new builds not meet the as-yet unspecified renewable energy targets.