Regulators approve €1bn Coillte-ESB deal
Partnership will build wind farms to generate energy for half a million homes
The partnership will build wind farms with the total capacity to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity by 2030, enough to power about half a million homes. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Mergers watchdogs will allow a €1 billion Coillte-ESB energy deal on condition that the State companies agree not to share competitively sensitive information.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has been investigating plans by forestry company Coillte and energy group ESB to jointly spend €1 billion building wind farms to generate electricity in the Republic.
The commission confirmed on Friday that it would allow the deal on condition that the two State companies put in place safeguards to prevent them from sharing competitively sensitive information with each other, the joint venture or other businesses hoping to build power plants on Coillte land.
Both will jointly nominate an independent chairman to the joint venture who will ensure that directors appointed to the business by the ESB will not have access to, or share, competitively sensitive information between the ESB and the new partnership.
Coillte has pledged to put in place safeguards designed to prevent it from sharing information with the joint venture in relation to the State forestry company’s third-party customers.
The commission’s investigation prompted concerns that the venture could result in the direct or indirect exchange of competitively sensitive information between ESB, the proposed joint venture and partners working on other deals with Coillte.
Similarly, investigators feared that Coillte and the joint venture could, directly or indirectly, share competitively sensitively information on third parties seeking to use the forestry company’s land to build wind farms.
Coillte and the ESB told the commission of their plan a year ago. The CCPC began an extensive two-phase investigation to establish if the proposal would substantially lessen competition in the electricity market.
Both will welcome news that the commission has approved the plan. They have been working on the joint venture since February 2019.
The partnership will build wind farms with a total capacity to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity by 2030, which Coillte estimates is enough to power about half a million homes.
Ultimately the partnership could build 20 to 30 of these generating plants at a total cost of €1 billion.
When the two companies first began planning the project, Coillte had identified 12 sites on its land that had the best wind speeds and were located suitable distances away from the nearest communities.
Under the plan ESB would acquire 50 per cent of the joint venture and provide services to the enterprise. The new business would use Coillte’s sites and wind farm development staff.