IRELAND will face hefty annual fines if we continue to lag behind European renewable energy targets, Communicat-ions, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pat Rabbitte has said.
Taxpayers could face a bill of hundreds of millions of euro per year if we don't ensure that 40pc of our electricity demand comes from renewable sources by 2020.
Mr Rabbitte told the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) annual conference that we need to ramp up the construction of wind infrastructure.
"In terms of the 2020 renewable electricity target, we're actually 630MW behind where the national renewable energy action plan has outlined where we should be in 2012," Mr Rabbitte said.
"The target will not be achieved without an increase in wind energy build from an historic average of 180MW per year to at least 250MW per year now.
"Clearly the timely development of a healthy pipeline of potential wind projects is essential if Ireland's 2020 renewable electricity targets are to be achieved."
However, the minister said he believed we can meet the 2020 deadline.
He told the conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin that 1,250 turbines in 150 wind farms across 22 counties have been commissioned since 2003.
But he said failure to meet the deadline will result in non-compliance costs potentially amounting to between €100m and €150m per year, for each percentage shortfall in renewable energy, and a further €250m in emissions permit purchases.
The minister also claimed that it would undermine the opportunity to export renewable energy to the UK.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of a small protest outside the Four Seasons Hotel, the IWEA said a poll has found that 80pc of Irish people support wind power. The survey quizzed 916 people.
Kenneth Matthews, IWEA chief executive, said: "This is a clear indication that there is widespread support for wind energy in Ireland.
"The support shown for the installation of wind farms emphasises that many Irish people see wind energy as a real alternative which will help stabilise their energy bills and also benefit Ireland in terms of jobs and investment to the local economy."