The government must increase solar panel installations on rooftops, car parks and brownfield sites instead of allocating them on productive farmland, a charity has said.
Changes to planning policy could 'turbocharge' the rollout of solar energy, CPRE has said ahead of the Autumn Statement.
While some solar farms on farmland will be necessary to hit energy targets by 2030, the countryside charity's analysis shows the majority of panels could be placed unobtrusively.
Opposition to industrial-sized solar farms in the countryside is growing, meaning the goal of decarbonising the UK’s energy system could get bogged down in planning objections and protests.
The CPRE warned that demands for food security and nature recovery were 'needlessly clashing' with net zero goals.
In contrast to the UK’s approach, France has announced plans to fast track renewable energy by mandating car parks nation-wide be covered by solar panels.
Elsewhere, Germany has focussed on rooftops first, with 80% of its solar power coming from panels that generate little public opposition.
The UK government must do the same, the CPRE said, by adopting a renewables strategy that prioritises rooftops, surface car parks and brownfield sites in a "concerted effort to attract wide public support".
The policy could 'drastically reduce' energy bills during the cost-of-living crisis and speed up the transition to net zero, while leaving "as much countryside as possible available for farming".
Analysis by CPRE shows that if only a quarter of the UK’s total 250,000ha. of south-facing commercial roof space was useable it could generate 25GW electricity annually.
With good planning and design, 20,000ha of car parking space could potentially yield an additional 8GW of solar capacity alongside tens of thousands of new homes. The UK already has 14.5GW of solar capacity operational.
Tom Fyans, interim chief executive of CPRE, said that 'simple tweaks' to planning policy could have a 'transformative impact'.
"Commercial roofs and car parks are low hanging fruit ripe for solar installations. There would be little to no objections from the public, meaning no time and money lost to planning delays.