A cross-border lobby group has been set up to support and drive the agenda of green entrepreneurs, it was announced today.
More than 12,000 people are employed in the renewable energy sector in Ireland - one of the fastest growing industries.
The Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) will give a voice to employers and ensure operators work to high-standards.
Launching the trade group, Energy Minister Eamon Ryan said the Government was committed to meeting the national target for producing energy from renewable sources by 2020.
“Over 12,000 people are employed directly in the sector here in Ireland, with thousands more indirectly linked, be it in energy assessment, efficient technologies, or in the promotion of energy awareness campaigns countrywide.
“We must reach our target of 40% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020.
“The government is committed to this target and will assist renewable energy companies as much as possible in this regard.
“We are working together on this. It is right therefore that a representative body is established.”
Mr Ryan said it was essential that schemes like the all-island power grid and the retrofitting of houses to maximise energy efficiency are rolled out for the country to meet its renewables targets.
The Housing Energy Savings Scheme, launched on a pilot basis earlier this year in north Tipperary, Limerick, Clare and Dundalk, will be extended nationally in 2009, he announced.
In the Budget the government provided an extra €15m for the programme, which allows householders to apply for grants to help insulate their homes.
Mr Ryan said houses could be retrofitted in bulk, with contractors carrying out the job on an estate-wide basis.
This would help boost jobs in the crumbling construction industry and save householders money.
“That Home Energy Savings Scheme is going to be my real test for next year,” he said.
“It has worked very well on a pilot basis, we want it nationwide now.”
The minister also warned it was crucial that standards in such programmes were kept high to ensure the public had faith in the renewable energy sector.
“What we don’t want is people coming back in three or four years and saying, ’I’ve a problem here, that insulation is the wrong one for my house’.
“That damages public confidence and does more than anything else to hinder the development of this new renewables economy.
“So I think it’s right to do it the way we’ve done it, to pilot, check and test and to build it up on a steady basis.”
Mr Ryan added public support for the national all-island power grid must be secured as it will help create jobs in the long-term.
More than 40 companies operating within the renewable energy sector attended today’s launch.