Majority support energy infrastructure projects if they provide local jobs and support communities – survey

Low EV ownership due mainly to cost concerns, while only one in five are interested in switching to an electric vehicle in next five years

More than 70 per cent of Irish adults are more likely to support large-scale energy infrastructure projects near where they live, if they come with local jobs and investment in their communities, according to a survey on Ireland’s energy transition.

The “powering tomorrow” poll conducted by Red C for KPMG indicated strong acceptance for projects such as wind or solar farms, but less so for high-voltage power lines, while enthusiasm for EVs, a key part of the Government’s climate strategy, is low – despite record sales recently.

Only 34 per cent of respondents said they would accept high-voltage power lines. The island of Ireland needs significant grid investment including a network of pylons with high-voltage lines and the much-delayed North-South interconnector to distribute renewable power that is critical to energy security and reducing fossil fuel imports.

About half (51 per cent) claimed they would not support nuclear power plants in Ireland despite being a low-carbon energy source.


On a more positive note, some 83 per cent of respondents expressed a readiness to implement energy efficiency measures at home to help Ireland reduce emissions, while two in five have made some energy-related improvements to their home over the past year, though cost remains a significant barrier for most.

Fewer than one in 10 (6 per cent) have electric cars, with three in 10 stating they will not change to an electric vehicle soon. The reluctance to switch is rooted in four main factors – EVs being too expensive (50 per cent); lack of charging points (7 per cent), concerns about new technologies (6 per cent) and uncertainty about potential savings (4 per cent). Only one in five are interested in switching to an electric car or van within the next five years.

Colm O’Neill, head of energy, utilities and telecoms at KPMG, said: “Irish people are broadly committed to change and support large-scale infrastructure and renewable energy projects. However, to secure Ireland’s energy future and achieve energy independence, we need a compelling vision for what this will mean for people, their communities and future job prospects.”

The energy transition presented Ireland with the exciting prospect of energy independence and potential to build its industrial base generating employment and prosperity, he said.

“Government needs to educate and engage with communities about the benefits of supporting large-scale infrastructure and renewable energy projects. Irish people will play a pivotal role in Ireland’s energy transition journey,” he said.

Cost is a significant barrier for the vast majority (60 per cent) of those who have not undertaken energy efficiency works in their homes. A third said reduced fuel bills would be the main factor to motivate them to undertake energy efficiency works and home retrofits. The poll suggested a third of respondents experienced a lack of heat or hot water in their homes due to fuel costs.

It indicated fuel poverty among lower social and economic groups is at 42 per cent. “The energy crisis accelerated fuel poverty for many Irish households, a stark finding for a modern wealthy society like Ireland,” Mr O’Neill noted.

This finding should be seen in the context of Ireland having the potential “to become energy independent, providing secure, affordable, and sustainable energy for Irish homes, businesses and communities”.

The research revealed concerns about climate change resonate strongly among Irish adults, with six in 10 worried about the effects of climate change, yet 14 per cent are not concerned at all.

Meanwhile, six in 10 people are not confident in Ireland’s ability to achieve its climate action targets. This scepticism is particularly apparent among 45- to 64-year-olds, with nine in 10 doubting Ireland’s capacity to meet climate targets. Even among the more optimistic 18-34 age group, only one in five believe Ireland is on track.

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Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times