Funding available for public authorities in Member States
Acknowledging that evidence indicates that shale gas is the form of unconventional gas with the most promising growth potential in the EU, DG Energy (Directorate-General for Energy, European Commission), has invited proposals by public authorities in EU Member States in relation to organising public debates and information campaigns on shale gas in the EU.
This project forms part of the European Parliament’s budget for 2012 and 2013 for a pilot project on “energy security – shale gas”. The aim is to start a public debate and information campaign “before industrial production begins”. As the European Parliament recognises, although there is already public debate on shale gas, that debate is “not always based on concrete knowledge and information”.
One aim is to enhance debates and other activities at EU level (including studies recently commissioned by the European Commission into different aspects of shale gas which are expected to be reported on in the next few months) through closer links with public debates at Member State level.
A maximum of one public authority per Member State can apply, with the campaign co-financed by grants to successful applicants of up to 50 per cent of the cost. The total amount to be made available for the campaign is 200,000 Euros. Proposals must be submitted by 15 October 2012, with the funding available for activities up to the end of 2013.
- Public hearings must be organised in one or more regions (maximum of one hearing per region) where shale gas projects have been started or are concretely planned.
- Between 5 & 6 hearings are expected to be funded.
- Before the hearing there must be online consultations in the Member State’s official language and/or regionally used languages on the issues to be discussed. Information must be provided on a website as well as interactive elements, e.g. an opportunity for stakeholders and the public to post questions prior to the hearing.
- The discussions at the public hearings must take into account regional and local issues, as well as issues addressed by the EC studies referred to above.
- Public hearings should involve relevant public authorities, local communities, the general public, businesses and NGO’s.
- The websites should be used after the hearings to disseminate information about the proceedings and the conclusions of the hearings.
- This provides a structure in which public debates on shale gas can take place in an organised, informed and open manner, before decisions on the industrial exploitation of shale gas are taken.
- There is recognition within the European Parliament that the shale gas debate to date has not always been properly informed.
- The timeline for this public dialogue and information campaign reflects the speed at which the shale gas debate is moving. Only activities up to the end of 2013 will be funded.
- In seeking to coordinate the debate at Member State level with efforts and activities at EU level the European Commission is clearly looking for a more cohesive approach across the EU.
- The reference to the growth potential of shale gas in Europe is encouraging, and this initiative can be seen as a further step towards understanding the opportunities which it presents.