EERA Shale Gas Joint Program

SP5: A social license to operate

The unfolding public debate on shale gas development in Europe (informed by the US experience and the current conflict in the UK) suggests that it is not advisable to separate the issues of the impact on the wider economy and energy system and the regulatory and governance issues from those of public perceptions, engagement and acceptance (or not). In the UK at present the conflict over shale gas is framed around the benefits in terms of energy security and economic growth, on the one hand; and the costs in terms of local environmental impact and the wider issue of climate change policy, on the other hand.  In such a context, the development of a ‘shale gas regime’ that encompasses both the specific regulatory and planning processes and the wider issues of economic benefit and energy policy is essential to gaining wider public acceptance. At the same time, the tensions between developing unconventional fossil fuels to address energy security in the wider context of decarbonisation also needs to be considered. Thus, an integrated approach to all of the issues surrounding the ‘social license to operate’ makes scientific sense.