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A rooftop revolution

Countryside way ahead on rooftop solar but England’s full potential overlooked, reveals CPRE research
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Aerial view of two workers installing solar panels on a house roof

People in the countryside are leading the way on solar power generation, according to new research from CPRE, the countryside charity.

48 of the 50 English parliamentary constituencies with the highest domestic solar generation capacity are in rural areas, reflecting the far higher number of homes with solar panels.

On average, each rural constituency has domestic solar panels with a total generating capacity of 12.5 MW, compared with just 4.5 MW in urban constituencies.

But both figures are still far too low to meet the government’s net zero targets.

They show how opportunities to generate huge amounts of cheap, low-carbon electricity are being missed, something people’s purses – let alone the planet – can ill afford.

Cutting costs of solar

Cost is often a hugely significant barrier, with the average domestic installation bill coming in at more than £6,000.

Published today, a new report from CPRE demonstrates that, with the right financial initiatives and practical support in place, the rooftops of homes, warehouses and car parks across the nation could act like clean power stations, cutting carbon emissions, slashing energy bills and protecting our countryside. 

The report argues that lessons should be learnt from countries including Germany, where cash incentives for installing solar panels are as much as double those offered in the UK, and Japan, where homeowners can have solar panels installed for free in exchange for the electricity they generate.

‘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.’

JACKIE COPLEY
CPRE planning and policy lead

Solar car parks

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 GW, nearly as much energy as 10 new nuclear power stations and more than seven times the amount currently produced by rooftop solar and solar farms combined. 

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.

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