European produced shale gas has the potential to contribute to energy security, deliver economic benefits and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However there is a lack of understanding about how much of this potential can be realised. This is why today we are announcing that the UK and Poland are commissioning independent analysis looking into these potential impacts specifically in our two countries and the implications for the wider EU. We expect this work to start shortly and to be published before the end of the year.
Events in the Ukraine have shown the importance of energy security for the EU. Currently, the EU imports 70% of its gas. And as Europe’s leaders recognised at the March European Council, the EU needs a long-term plan to move away from our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
The UK and Poland have led the way in Europe in calling for the EU to focus more on energy security concerns. In March 2014, Polish Prime Minister Tusk outlined his vision for an EU energy union, which contained important ideas for improving the EU’s energy security.
The UK agrees with Poland that in order to improve Europe’s energy security, we must take full advantage of those indigenous resources that could also help us in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
European shale gas exploration is at an early stage in the EU, and both countries are at the forefront of this new sector. Shale has the potential to enhance our energy security, boost competitiveness and help us reduce our carbon footprint. The potential growth through job creation and investment along the supply chain will also have a cumulative effect – supporting industries such as construction and transport, to end users like the chemicals industry. Potentially, it could place downward pressure on energy prices which would be welcomed by consumers and industry alike.
But this potential need not be exploited at the expense of the environment. It is essential that European shale gas developments are carried out safely, under robust regulatory frameworks. That is why both countries are fully committed to ensuring that the existing European environmental safeguards and domestic regulations are robustly implemented. We worked closely to ensure that the Commission’s proposals were proportionate and avoided adding any new bureaucracy to this emerging sector.
Shale gas alone will not solve the EU’s energy security concerns. We must also work to radically diversify our external sources and supply routes for natural gas, further strengthen the internal energy market, and address the barriers to investment for energy efficiency measures.
And it is important that all these measures are not taken in isolation from wider European energy and climate concerns. This is why we are both committed to working together to realise the potential of shale and enable it to contribute to the wider energy agenda.