Rural England Leads in Solar Energy, yet Potential Remains Vastly Untapped

Groundbreaking analysis from the Countryside Charity, CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), published last week, reveals that rural homes in England are leading the way in harnessing solar power. According to the report titled "Lighting the way: International policies for making the rooftop solar revolution a reality," a staggering 96% of the top solar-generating constituencies are rural, far outpacing their urban counterparts.

The CPRE's findings indicate that rural areas are not only ahead in adopting solar technology but also have the potential to dramatically increase their output. Currently, rural constituencies have the capacity to generate 12.5 megawatts (MW) of solar energy annually—nearly three times the 4.5 MW generated in urban settings. Despite these impressive numbers, the report underscores a critical oversight: both rural and urban areas are far from realising their true solar generation potential.

The report draws on successful international examples to suggest how the UK might expand its solar capacity. It points to Germany and Japan where significant government incentives and innovative policies have accelerated the adoption of solar technology. For example, Germany offers substantial financial incentives that effectively double the investment returns on solar installations compared to the UK. In Japan, homeowners can install solar panels at no initial cost in return for contributing power back to the grid.

The CPRE report argues that by embracing similar initiatives, the UK could transform its rooftops into valuable energy resources. The potential is staggering: all suitable rooftops and car parks could generate 117 gigawatts (GW) of power—significantly exceeding the government’s target of 70 GW by 2050. Such a shift would not only ensure energy security but also protect the countryside from more invasive forms of energy production.

CPRE advocates for ambitious government targets to generate at least 60% of the UK's solar energy from rooftops and for streamlined processes to install solar panels on existing buildings. "We are at a critical juncture," the report reads. "The technology is here, the benefits are clear, and the potential is enormous. What remains is for us to embrace these opportunities."

Kerry Booth, Chief Executive, Rural Services Network

The latest CPRE report shines a critical light on the untapped potential of rooftop solar in England, revealing a clear pathway towards not only achieving but surpassing our national energy targets. Rural communities are already leading the charge, demonstrating that the integration of solar technology in the countryside is both viable and beneficial. This report points out the urgent need for policy innovation and community engagement to harness this potential fully.

The Rural Services Network advocates for enhancing sustainability in rural areas, ensuring they can continue to contribute significantly to the nation’s transition to sustainable energy. To learn more, visit our “Winning the Rural Vote” campaign.


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