The Government and industry are failing to get the message across to the public that wind farms, solar parks and other green electricity sources are essential in the battle against climate breakdown, a conference has been told.
Mark Foley, head of the national electricity grid, said even he would have a job getting his neighbours on-side when plans for wind turbines off the Greystones coast in Co Wicklow come up.
Mr Foley, chief executive of Eirgrid, said public awareness of the existence of the Climate Action Plan - of which renewable energy is the single biggest action in reducing carbon emissions - was incredibly low.
He said the message in relation to renewables should be simple: "We need it all and we need as much of it as we can get." He added: "We have got to have a co-ordinated approach using the most simple and coherent … of messages that anyone, from a primary school child to my 89-year-old mother, will get. At the moment, the message is completely lost in a fog of data."
Ireland is aiming to have 70pc of its electricity needs met by renewables in 2030 - up from 40pc currently.
Already, there are 250 wind farms on land and more are planned, including 19 which have just been approved for contracts under the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).
The Republic's first solar parks were also approved and 63 of them now have permission to proceed.
Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan said the RESS, which also approved seven community-owned projects, was crucial. He said: "Through community ownership we will build public support for the massive scale of development that we need to meet our climate targets."
Off-shore wind is a major part of the strategy but the conference, organised by the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), was told of concerns that the sector's targets would not be met.
Peter Baillie, managing director of Energia, said while seven off-shore wind projects had been selected by the State for fast-tracking, they would produce only 2GW of the 5GW sought from the sector. He said 11 other projects needed similar priority.
EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson pledged support for Ireland's efforts. "Your only limit when it comes to wind energy is your ambition and we will do everything we can on our side to facilitate you," she said.