Countryside ahead on rooftop solar but England’s full potential overlooked – CPRE

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New CPRE analysis reveals that homes in the countryside are leading the way on solar power generation. 48 of the 50 English parliamentary constituencies with the highest domestic solar generation capacity are in rural areas, while all 200 of those with the lowest are in towns and cities.

Analysis of local authority data showed that rural constituencies have enough domestic solar panels to generate 12.5 megawatts (MW) energy every year – as opposed to 4.5 MW in urban areas. However, both figures are far too low, and it’s clear that the transformative power of rooftop solar continues to be overlooked. The huge amount of cheap, low carbon electricity that rooftop solar can provide will save people money, and is progress we cannot afford to stall – for the sake of our countryside and planet.

Lessons to learn

Together with our analysis of government data, our new report on the economics of rooftop solar clearly shows that with the right initiatives in place, the rooftops of homes, warehouses and car parks across the nation could become clean power stations, cutting carbon emissions, slashing energy bills and protecting our countryside.

The report argues that lessons should be learned from countries including Germany, where cash incentives for installing solar panels are as much as double those offered in the UK. In Japan, homeowners can have solar panels installed for free in exchange for contributing energy to the grid.

Read our new rooftop solar report

It isn’t all about roofs, however. Since 2023, it has been a legal requirement for a canopy of solar panels to be installed on all new car parks in France. CPRE research has shown that installing solar panels on the UK’s car parks and new buildings could generate 31 gigwatts (GW), as much energy as ten new nuclear power stations and more than seven times the amount currently produced by rooftop solar and solar farms combined.

CPRE planning and policy lead Jackie Copley said:

‘We’re calling for a rooftop solar revolution. It’s unacceptable that developers are not required to include solar panels on all new homes. The time for change has come.

‘The government must set a target for generating at least 60% of the UK’s solar energy from rooftops and make it easier and cheaper to install panels on existing homes and commercial buildings.’

Taken together, all suitable roof space and car parks in the UK could generate a whopping 117 GW, substantially more than the government’s total solar target of 70 GW by of 2050.

A rooftop revolution

With enough roof space in England to meet more than half of our solar energy targets, rooftop solar is a common sense solution that continues to be overlooked. If you want to help, sign our rooftop solar petition, and respond to the government’s consultation to make solar panels mandatory on new-builds (closes 6 March 2024).

We all have a duty to make the best possible use of our land. The UK’s outdated and expensive energy system is using more and more of the space we need for food, wildlife and wellbeing. The time for change has come.

Taken together, all suitable roof space and car parks in the UK could generate a whopping 117 GW, substantially more than the government’s total solar target of 70 GW by 2035.

View on the rooftop solar power plant with man walking and examining photovoltaic panels. Concept of alternative energy and its service RossHelen editorial / Alamy Stock Photo

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