A decision on whether to begin fracking for shale gas in the Netherlands will not be taken for another 18 months until further research has been done, Dutch economic affairs minister Henk Kamp has confirmed.
The three areas in the country currently considered for test drilling by British firm Cuadrilla will not be fracked until a detailed investigation has taken place over the environmental effects of shale gas extraction.
This process could take up to 18 months, Kamp told the Dutch parliament, given that the government and energy experts will be looking for ways to minimise soil, water and air pollution. This period will also been used to involve local communities and council near potential fracking sites.
Some councils, such as Haaren and Boxtel in the north-east of Amsterdam, have already said they oppose shale gas extraction and would prefer to see developments in the renewable energy sector.
Andries Poppe from Noordoostpolder council said he will only sleep well when the fracking plans are dropped.
Meanwhile, Cuadrilla said it is disappointed by the delay but that it is confident the research will reassure locals that fracking is not dangerous.
The temporary suspension comes after Dutch bank Rabobank announced in July it would not lend money to businesses involved in shale gas extraction or other unconventional fuels – and also not to farmers leasing their land to energy companies – because of the high environmental risks involved.
The Netherlands has one of the lowest shares of renewable energy in Europe, partly because of the country’s flatness and geographical make-up which limits the hydropower capacity.
However, the Dutch government has set a 14% renewable energy target by 2020, to be achieved through the development of more wind farms, biomass and biofuels.