CPRE Sussex Director’s column written for West Sussex Gazette, June 2023
Sussex has been basking in glorious sunshine for the past few weeks. But beyond the pleasures of picnics on the Downs and spotting tiny scuttling crabs on the beach, this weather raises an important question – why are we not harnessing the full potential of the sun to tackle our energy crisis?
A report released by the national CPRE charity in May revealed more than half of solar panels required to hit government net-zero targets could be fitted on rooftops and car parks. This would mean decarbonising the grid would take far less land than previously feared.
We know climate crisis is the biggest threat facing our countryside and we need to decarbonise fast. The government has set a national target of 70GW of solar energy generation by 2035.
UCL Energy Institute analysis of the solar photovoltaic capacity of rooftops and car parks across England found installing solar panels on existing rooftops and land such as car parks could provide at least 40-50GW in England by 2035.
With further investment, by 2050 there is potential for up to 117GW of low carbon electricity to be generated from roofs and other developed spaces.
This means there is enormous potential to make use of rooftops, both domestic and commercial, to generate renewable energy, while still protecting valuable landscapes.
With the right policies, rooftop solar could hand power back to the people. A decentralised future of renewable energy cooperatives, supported by the government, is a realistic option in a net-zero world.
At CPRE Sussex, we want to see all suitable new developments have rooftop solar as standard.
This should be supported by a massive programme of climate-proofing existing buildings through insulation, rooftop solar and low-carbon heating.
There are already fantastic examples of renewable energy projects right here in Sussex.
In 2017 the University of Sussex installed rooftop solar panels as an easy first step on its decarbonisation journey. It installed 3,144 solar panels, producing more than 4GWh of renewable energy for the campus.
These panels have helped reduce the university’s reliance on non-renewable energy with a corresponding reduction in energy bills. They have also been welcomed by the university community.
REPOWER Balcombe supports community-owned, locally generated energy through clean, renewable technologies, and encourages the move away from climate-changing fossil fuels.
It disperses funds to local schools and charities for energy-saving projects such as LED lighting, electricity storage batteries, solar panels, and community fridges.
So, what can you do to help?
CPRE Sussex is urging everyone to get involved in our Rooftop Renewables Revolution.
Encourage your MP to sign up as Rooftop Solar Champions via the national CPRE website: takeaction.cpre.org.uk/page/128562/petition/1.
Support the campaign by joining the thousands of people who have already signed our rooftop solar petition: takeaction.cpre.org.uk/page/127929/petition/1
Start your own community solar project or join an existing local scheme.
Together we can lead a rooftop renewables revolution and create a greener future for Sussex.