90,000 constructions will need sufficient energy upgrades every year to 2020, if they are to meet targets set out under the EU Energy Efficiency Directive – expected to come into force in November.

The survey was carried out by the Sustainable Energy for the Rural Village Environment (SERVE), an EU funded project based in Tipperary. Findings also indicated that the economic crisis means fewer people feel that the environment is a priority.

EU member states could face fines if they fail to comply with the Directive which aims to increase energy efficiency in households, industries and transport sectors.

Despite this, the survey suggests that Ireland is unlikely to reach its target as it would appear that less than 50,000 buildings will have undergone energy upgrades in 2012.

Furthermore, the research found that Irish people are less concerned with the environment due to the current economic climate. In 2010, 37% of those asked felt that the environment should be given priority over competitiveness; whereas in 2012, this reduced to 25%.

SERVE has a five-year project in North Tipperary which has delivered an investment of €10.5m in sustainable energy in the region. 400 buildings in the area received significant energy upgrades and an eco-village in Cloughjordan was developed. The village is 100% supplied by renewable heating system and has the largest solar array (506m2) in Ireland.

According to SERVE project manager Seamus Hoyne, an analysis of energy saving in 300 homes with energy efficiency upgrades resulted in savings of €200,000. If all Irish homes adopted the same energy upgrades, the savings could amount to €1bn a year in lost savings, he claimed.

“The rate of return for the investment in sustainable energy for houses in the SERVE region was 10% which is significantly better than the average rate of return in a deposit savings account.

With increasing fuel prices the rate of return will increase further making energy efficiency a sound investment.”

Mr Hoyne also argued that efficiency in commercial and public buildings could save the exchequer hundreds of thousands of Euro.

“An investment of €205,000 in a biomass heating system at a public pool in the SERVE region has resulted in annual savings of €25,000 to €30,000 per annum. Assuming all pools and leisure centres which are off the Natural Gas Grid where to make similar investments, one job will be created per €250,000 invested,” he said.

Conor McGlone

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie