Coillte Enterprise

Coillte Enterprise is the venturing arm of the Group and seeks to identify new business opportunities and extract value from the Group’s broad asset base. It comprises land sales and development, telecommunications infrastructure, renewable energy including wind farms and renewable heat solutions, Coillte Nurseries, Coillte Wood Products and Coillte Training and Safety Services.

Significant progress was made in 2010 on the delivery of our strategic objectives in Coillte Enterprise, despite the extremely difficult economic environment which has severely impacted activity and pricing in the property sales and property development markets.  

Wind Energy

Major progress was made in 2010 in delivering on our plan for Wind Energy. The process of building a strong development team, to add to the existing expertise in house, was completed with the appointment of a number of new staff, all of whom have significant experience in both the development and construction phases of wind farm projects.

During 2010 planning permission was secured in Cloosh Valley in County Galway and Raheenleagh in County Wicklow for major wind farm developments. Further planning applications are well advanced for wind farm projects in counties Roscommon, Laois, Wicklow, Cork, Galway and North Tipperary. We also expect to commence early stage environmental assessment on projects in County Mayo later this year.

During the year we completed and subsequently sold our holding in the Garvagh Glebe wind farm project in County Leitrim to our Joint Venture partner ESB Power Generation.

The sales pipeline of wind farm sites remains strong notwithstanding the challenges facing developers with regard to the planning, regulatory and funding environments and the need for delivery of major upgrades to the national grid.

Property development and sales

Despite the downturn in the property market Coillte delivered approx 50 property transactions of varying scale during 2010.

Identifying alternative non-forestry uses for our land will continue to be a key part of our strategy to add value to our land asset.

Telecommunications

Coillte is currently one of the leading players in the telecommunications masts business in Ireland, with a network of over 300 mast sites across the country.  These masts play a key role in ensuring that mobile phone and wireless broadband services have a national reach, including some of the most remote parts of the country.

In 2010 Coillte Enterprise made an enormous contribution to the Government’s National Broadband Scheme Project through the provision of 104 new mast sites and c. €4.2 million in capital investment. Over 70 sites were completed in 2010 and an additional seven sites were under construction during Q1 2011. We expect significant future expansion in this business as the telecoms operators respond to the massive growth in demand for internet enabled hand held devices.

During 2010 a new Business Manager was appointed to this area and the drafting of a "Telecoms Business Development Strategy" was commenced.  We will have completed this Strategy in the early part of 2011 and critically,  this work will provide the underpinning market analysis and business opportunity assessment to support continued investment in the business over the next three to five years as we seek to extract value from the rapid growth in demand for data capacity.

Biomass

In 2010 we formed a strategic partnership with Sisk/CES following an extensive assessment of the market for biomass opportunities in the power generation, combined heat and power and heat markets. The market assessment clearly demonstrated that the most appropriate, most efficient and most cost effective use of a key limited natural resource - forest originating biomass - is in renewable heat applications, where efficiencies in excess of 90% can be achieved on a consistent basis. Our target market of large scale industrial/manufacturing operations gave a clear signal of their requirement for Coillte and its partners to have the capacity to delivery fully integrated solutions including engineering, procurement, construction and fuel supply. Sisk/CES were chosen as our partners after a competitive evaluation process.

The business has delivered its first contract for a feasibility study and we are forecasting that revenues will begin to flow from late 2011. We are active in advocating the adoption of a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to stimulate the industry, similar to the model recently announced in the UK. 

We believe that this section of the market provides the best opportunity for Ireland to make significant inroads into our committed renewable heat target of 12% by 2020, as set out in the European Directive.

We have and continue to explore the opportunities for Coillte in this market and we have now developed a substantial amount of vital intellectual property relating to the range and viability of large scale development projects based on biomass material.

Carbon

In March 2010, Coillte hosted a forum in Trinity College Dublin to outline a concept for a carbon offset product based on a major expansion of forestry activity in Ireland. Based on extensive global research and the critical role played by Ireland’s current forestry assets in combating climate change, we believe that a major expansion of Ireland’s afforestation programme offers the single biggest opportunity to mitigate the effects of our national carbon emissions in a cost effective manner.

The proposal met with strong support from a cross section of key stakeholders who attended the session. Work has progressed on this proposal during 2010, with the assistance of an expert group of specialists across a range of disciplines in both the public and private sectors and we expect to launch the formal proposition in the first half of 2011.

Outlook

The market and business environment for Coillte Enterprise in 2011 will continue to be challenging.

With little or no availability of either funding or demand for property development, the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and the uncertainty as to how it is to manage the assets under its stewardship, the outlook is expected to remain very uncertain with little or no activity in the development market.

Falling property prices and the overall state of the Government finances have resulted in a significant reduction in activity on national infrastructure projects, effectively eliminating compulsory purchase transactions from our sales pipeline and this looks set to continue.

Despite current market difficulties, Coillte Enterprise continues to have a steady pipeline of land and energy related sales. We have a clear strategy to invest and to drive value in our Wind Energy portfolio, with five planning applications due to be lodged in 2011.

In Telecoms, we expect to grow the business strongly on the back of the rapid demand for increased data capacity and the ongoing requirement to improve quality of service for voice and data in rural areas.

Further uncertainty in the global fossil fuels commodity market underlines the compelling business case for our biomass solutions in conjunction with our technology partners. We expect to make significant progress in this sector in 2011.