Competition watchdog clears proposed green energy venture between ESB and Coillte

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has cleared, subject to a number of legally binding commitments, the proposed joint venture between the ESB and Coillte.

Under the joint venture, Coillte intends to establish a wholly-owned subsidiary to which Coillte’s renewable energy division would be transferred.

Following formal notification to the CCPC on February 12, 2020, a two-phase investigation was undertaken to establish whether the proposed transaction “would result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market for goods or services in the state”.

In the course of the investigation, the CCPC identified two potential competition concerns, both of which relate to the risk of exchange of competitively sensitive information.

These concerns were that:

  • There could be direct or indirect exchange of competitively sensitive information between ESB, the proposed joint venture and co-development project partners currently in co-development arrangements with Coillte;
  • There could be direct or indirect exchange of competitively sensitive information between Coillte and the proposed joint venture regarding third parties seeking access to Coillte-owned land for the purposes of developing and constructing an onshore wind farm in the state.

To address these concerns, a set of joint proposals submitted by ESB and Coillte provide for the implementation of measures “to prevent directors appointed to the proposed joint venture by ESB potentially having access to and exchanging competitively sensitive information between ESB and the proposed joint venture”.

Under the joint proposals, ESB and Coillte will nominate an independent chairperson who will “ensure that directors appointed to the proposed joint venture by ESB will not have access to or exchange competitively sensitive information between ESB and the proposed joint venture”.

A further set of proposals submitted by Coillte includes the proposed implementation of measures which will prevent the exchange of information between Coillte and the joint venture, in relation to Coillte’s third party land customers.

Following detailed consideration and further analysis, the CCPC has concluded that these commitments address the identified competition concerns.

Deliver 1,000 MW of renewable energy by 2030

It was announced in 2019 that the two companies were engaged in negotiations that, if successful, would see the establishment of a new joint venture development company to build wind farms and deliver 1,000MW of renewable energy by 2030.

The ESB said at the time:

It is proposed that a new joint venture will build on a successful track record of the two companies working together at Raheenleagh and Castlepook wind farms, in Co. Wicklow and Co. Cork respectively, where approximately 70MW of operational capacity has been developed.

“With appropriate approval in place, construction of the projects would commence in the early 2020s. They would be sensitively located, building on ESB’s and Coillte’s long experience of working with communities across the country.”