Coillte launches new forest plan and eyes July ESB deal

Coillte launches new forest plan and eyes July ESB deal
At the announcement of Coillte Nature were Gerard Murphy, Managing Director, Coillte Land Solutions; Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Agriculture Andrew Doyle and Bernie Gray, Chair, Coillte. Media Contacts: Ciaran Fallon, Head of External Affairs, Coillte. Picture: Julien Behan

State-owned forestry company Coillte is targeting the end of July as the completion date for the establishment of its planned wind energy joint-venture with the ESB and the deadline for unveiling its new group chief executive.

Ahead of that, the company is also hoping to name a managing director for its new Coillte Nature subsidiary within the next three-to-four weeks.

The new not-for-profit offshoot will see Coillte convert its nine Dublin-based forest areas from commercial wood supply usage to recreational use. The Dublin forests cover approximately 2,000 acres. Coillte, overall, has around one million acres of land across the country.

Coillte Nature will also seek to improve the environment by building new woodland areas focusing on species diversity, biodiversity and carbon sequestration - a process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form.

Coillte intends to invest €5m in the Coillte Nature project over the next three-to-four years. With the addition of co-funding - from private and EU grant aid sources - it has conservatively predicted €10m in funding over the same timeframe.

"Coillte's focus is to drive a strong commercial performance and, at the same time, provide a valuable environmental and social dividend to society at large," said Coillte chair Bernie Gray.

"This is a very significant and timely initiative, which is naturally aligned with the Government's focus on climate action," she said.

Ms Gray also said the company hopes to have a new CEO, a boss for the Coillte Nature subsidiary, and completion of its renewable energy joint-venture with the ESB all tied up by the end of next month. She said the latter project is "progressing on schedule".

Coillte and the ESB have been in talks for some time over a €1bn onshore wind farm development plan that would see Coillte's land used and enough power generated to run 700,000 homes by 2030.

Coillte's chief operations officer and chief financial officer Gerry Britchfield is currently the company's acting CEO, following the recent departure of former chief executive Fergal Leamy.

Mr Britchfield recently expressed his interest in assuming the chief executive's role on a full-time basis.

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