CPRE Calls for Mandatory Solar Panels on New Buildings to Drive Renewable Energy Revolution

A prominent campaign group, the CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England), is urging the government to implement a planning requirement mandating the installation of solar panels on all “suitable” new buildings. In alignment with the nation’s net-zero targets, the CPRE aims to drive significant changes in planning rules and promote the use of solar energy in residential, commercial, and industrial construction projects. 

Harnessing the Potential of Rooftop Solar

The call for mandatory solar capacity on new buildings follows research conducted by the UCL Energy Institute on behalf of the CPRE. The study highlights the significant potential for rooftop and car park installations to contribute to the nation’s renewable energy goals. The research suggests that nearly half of the solar panels required to achieve net-zero targets could be accommodated on rooftops and car parks alone. 

Setting Ambitious Solar Targets

In addition to advocating for mandatory solar panels, the CPRE is urging the government to establish a national target of at least 40GW of rooftop solar capacity by 2035. This goal aligns with its own ambition of generating 70GW of solar energy within the next 12 years. By setting ambitious targets, the campaign group aims to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources and drive a transition towards a more sustainable future.

The Criteria for Support

The CPRE’s campaign emphasizes four key criteria: energy efficiency, minimizing impacts on the countryside, community involvement, and ethical sourcing. The current government, planning system, and solar industry are falling short in meeting these criteria, warranting a revision of policies and practices. 

Unlocking the Potential of Existing Spaces

The CPRE highlights the immense potential of existing buildings, particularly industrial and commercial properties, in accommodating solar panels. The government estimates that approximately 250,000 hectares of south-facing industrial roof space exist across the country, capable of generating around 25GW of solar energy. The CPRE further suggests that with effective planning and design, the 20,000 hectares of car parking space nationwide could yield an additional 8GW of solar capacity, along with thousands of new homes. 

The CPRE's Rooftop Renewable Campaign

As part of their campaign, the CPRE is encouraging the government to embrace solar installations on rooftops and other underutilized spaces. By fully utilizing warehouses, schools, car parks, and farm buildings, renewable energy can be rapidly deployed without compromising wildlife, food security, or landscapes. The CPRE has published research conducted by the UCL Energy Institute, demonstrating the potential of rooftop solar panels and their widespread public support. This approach can help alleviate concerns surrounding large solar farms in rural areas. 

Demands from the CPRE

To drive a rooftop revolution, the CPRE is urging the government to take immediate action by: 

  • Developing a land-use framework to manage the impacts of solar energy schemes on the countryside. 
  • Implementing roof-first planning policies that prioritize solar energy generation from existing built areas, while preserving viable and sustainable farmland. 
  • Changing regulations to make rooftop solar panels a standard requirement for new buildings, including homes. 
  • Introducing coordinated industrial policies and roadmaps to ensure slavery-free solar energy supply chains. 
  • Providing financial support, such as government-backed low-cost loans, for homeowners, small businesses, and community groups. 
  • Investing in the electrical grid to enable quick and affordable connections for rooftop solar projects. 
  • Empowering rural communities to determine the location and integration of new renewable energy schemes in the countryside, building upon successful initiatives like the Kendall Town Council audit and the Community Energy Visioning process pioneered by the CPRE and the Centre for Sustainable Energy. 

The CPRE’s campaign for mandatory solar panels on new buildings aims to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and contribute to the nation’s net-zero targets. By harnessing the potential of rooftops and other underutilized spaces, the UK can make significant strides in reducing carbon emissions and building a sustainable future. Through policy changes, financial support, and community involvement, the CPRE seeks to inspire widespread adoption of solar energy and ensure a greener and cleaner environment for generations to come.

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