On 10 July 2015, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Mr
Kamp, published the results of the environmental impact assessment
(so-called plan MER). Based on the results of this assessment, the
Minister has decided that no drilling for shale gas will take place
during the current cabinet term. In addition, the Minister has
decided that no commercial exploration or extraction of shale gas
will take place over the next five years. Moreover, the existing
licenses for exploration activities relating to shale gas will not
be renewed. At the end of 2015, the government will take a decision
on the role of shale gas in the long-term energy mix within the
Results of the assessment
Since 2013 there have already been various studies conducted on
the variety of possible effects of the shale gas exploration in the
Netherlands. The social, environmental and economic factors
relating to extraction have been carefully considered. The Draft
Memorandum, which formed the basis for the environmental impact
assessment and was published on 28 May 2014 (see our earlier updates). The
Minister sought advice from legal advisors (the Agency of cultural
heritage, the Inspection for the Environment and the Director of
Regional Affairs of the Ministry of Economic Affairs) and
administrative bodies, including the relevant authorities in
Germany and Belgium. As there has been continuous prohibition on
exploratory drillings, it is still not clear how much shale gas is
present and whether the exploration of shale gas in the Netherlands
would be profitable. It follows from these studies that, it remains
unclear what the effects of drilling for shale gas deep below the
surface of the ground will be. Therefore, a proper political
balancing test on the advantages and disadvantages of the
exploration of shale gas, as part of the future Dutch energy mix
cannot be made at this point in time. Consequently, commercial
exploration activities or commercial extraction will not take place
in the next five years.
Next steps - Energy mix in the Netherlands
In December 2015, the Energy Report 2015 will be published
containing the decision whether or not to exclude shale gas as an
option in the Dutch energy mix. In early 2016, a draft structure
plan will be offered to the government, incorporating the decision
taken at the end of 2015. In this draft structure plan a long term
spatial planning strategy will be developed. The Minister indicated
that, if it follows from the Energy Report 2015 that shale gas
cannot be excluded as an option for the future energy mix, a
research program could start mid-2016, while test drillings can be
carried out under the control of the government as of 2018. In any
case commercial drillings are not allowed until 2020.
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