Funding for the building of the waste to energy incinerator in Poolbeg, Dublin, is coming from a company in Luxembourg with a structure similar to the ones that featured in last year's Luxleaks controversy over aggressive tax planning.
The Dublin Waste to Energy project is a public-private partnership (PPP) between the four Dublin local authorities and the US company Covanta.
Covanta is due to spend approximately €500 million developing the 600,000-tonne capacity incinerator, while the four authorities have already spent approximately €100 million on the project. In September of last year the controversial incinerator cleared the last of many hurdles that had held up its development and is due to come onstream in 2017.
Filings in Luxembourg show that a company there, Dublin First WTE, was incorporated in September 2014 and immediately entered into a stakeholder loan agreement with an Irish company, Dublin Waste to Energy (Holdings), for €75 million.
The Luxembourg company is charging 13.5 per cent per annum interest on the loan, which is to be repaid in 2029. The arrangement means that the taxable profits booked in Ireland by Dublin Waste to Energy (Holdings) will be reduced by the cost of servicing the debt to the Luxembourg company. One of the features of the Luxleaks controversy was the creation of entities in Luxembourg that created profit-reducing costs in other jurisdictions, while not producing comparable taxable profits in Luxembourg.
Dublin Waste to Energy (Holdings) is owned by Covanta and is the local holding company for Dublin Waste to Energy Ltd, the company that is the PPP partner with Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council, Fingal County Council and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, for the incinerator project.
A spokesman for Dublin City Council, which is the lead local authority in relation to the project, said all subsidiaries of the Dublin Waste to Energy Group are Irish-domiciled companies. “Dublin First WTE is not part of the Dublin Waste to Energy Group, it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of one of the funders of the project.” A spokesman for Covanta made the same point.
Dublin First WTE has no employees, according to its 2014 accounts, and it was established so as to invest in and take interests in other companies, and grant loans to affiliated companies. It is in turn owned by a company in the Cayman Islands.
The establishment of the PPP was an executive decision and was opposed by most city councillors. In a note to the city council in September 2014, the council chief executive Owen Keegan said the local authorities would provide partial revenue support for the first 15 years of the plant's operation, if the fee income charged for taking the waste did not meet a certain threshold. However, he said an analysis indicated that the "gate fee" threshold would be achieved and the contingent obligation on the authorities would not be triggered.
As well as getting a proportion of the income received, above a certain threshold, from the taking in of the waste, and the sale of energy, for 15 years, the councils will also share in the energy income for the remaining 30 years of the plant’s expected 45-year lifespan.
Mr Keegan said the project would create significant economic activity, generate employment and generate significant tax revenues. The energy produced would be sufficient to supply more than 80,000 homes a year, and the project would also contribute approximately €0.6 million annually to a “community gain fund”.
The incinerator is designed to meet the waste needs of the Eastern and Midlands waste region and is considered crucial to the State being able to meet its landfill diversion targets, without being dependent on sending waste overseas.