The Top 5: The World’s Largest Electricity Exporters
Strong points :
- 2020 international sales revenue of total global electricity was USD 28.8 billion
- Among the continents, Europe and Asia are the largest exporters of electricity
In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the western world reacted with a series of sanctions against Russia. It turns out that the sanctions weren’t enough to completely ban Russian energy – oil, gas and coal imports. Even if the United Kingdom has decided to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year, while reducing its imports of Russian gas by two thirds.
While the moves in the Western world may well be retribution for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they may have adverse consequences for the global economy. Therefore, the effect was evident right after the invasion of Ukraine as oil and gas prices skyrocketed. Russia is the third largest oil producer in the world after the United States and Saudi Arabia.
More than half of the 5 million barrels of crude oil produced by Russia are destined for Europe. Comparatively, the US is less dependent, with around 3% of its oil imports coming from Russia in 2020. Russian gas accounts for around 40% of EU natural gas imports. In 2021, the European Union imported an average of more than 380 million cubic meters (bcm) per day of gas via pipeline from Russia, or about 140 billion cubic meters (bcm) for the whole year. In addition, around 15 bcm were delivered in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The total 155 bcm imported from Russia accounted for around 45% of EU gas imports in 2021 (Source: IEA) . All of this just goes to show that the need for electrification of the global economy, by moving more and more sectors to electricity rather than fossil fuels, as we see in transport and electric vehicles for example, is urgent.
Electricity for Hegemony
The Ukraine-Russia chapter also recalled the vulnerability of nations, including the developed world, to disruptions in the energy sector. Can the major electricity-exporting countries shake the energy hegemony of countries that currently export oil and gas?
The value of global electricity exports decreased by 12.8% in 2019-2020, but the turnover of international sales of total global electricity was USD 28.8 billion.
Among the continents, exporters from Europe sold the most electricity in dollars with a shipment value of $17.9 billion or 62.3% of the world total. By contrast, Asian exporters were at 17.7%, while 7.7% came from North America, ahead of Latin America at 7.1% (excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean). Africa shared 5.2% of world exports.
In terms of gross electricity imports in 2020, the top electricity importers were Italy ($2.23 billion), the United States ($2.01 billion), Germany (1. $99 billion), Thailand ($1.76 billion) and Brazil ($1.5 billion). The top of electricity net importers are led by the United States with a net export deficit of around $1.7 billion in 2020. Thailand, Brazil, Italy and Hong Kong follow with $1.6 billion, 1.5 billion, $1.4 billion and $803.3 million, respectively. Net imports are total imports minus total exports.
So, which are the main countries electrifying the world? Here is a list of the five largest electricity exporters in the world.
Export value: $3.3 billion (11.5% of total world exports)
Sharing more than 11.5% of global electricity exports, Germany was the largest electricity exporter in the world. While overall exports exceeded $3 billion, the country ranked sixth in terms of net exports, which amounted to $1 billion.
Clearly, Europe’s powerhouse produced more than 52% of total electricity in 2020 using non-renewable sources such as lignite, hard coal, nuclear energy, natural gas and petroleum products. Developing about 3% from various sources, the country has developed more than 44% of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, hydro, biomass, photovoltaic, household waste and geothermal energy. E.ON SE, one of the world’s largest investor-owned electricity utility providers, is a major German company engaged in the country’s international electricity trade.
Export value: $2.2 billion (7.5%)
An immediate neighbor of the electricity giant, Germany, is also our second in the list of the largest electricity exporters – France. In 2020, France generated approximately $2.2 billion in electricity exports, or 7.5% of global exports. Still, the country was a better ranking, fifth, than its neighbor in terms of net export value – crossing over $1.3 billion.
France produces electricity from five major sources: coal, natural gas, liquid fuels, nuclear – non-renewable; and renewable. Interestingly, nuclear energy made up the largest part of French electricity production. It was over 67% in 2020, which also makes the country the largest share of nuclear electricity in the world. Renewable energies accounted for about 23% of electricity production in the country. Non-renewable energies shared approximately 8% of production. Électricité de France is an electricity utility company, largely owned by the French state, which handles electricity exports for the country.
Export value: $1.93 billion (6.7%)
With the highest net exports ($1.8 billion) in the world, Laos was ranked third in the list of the largest electricity exporters in 2020. The Southeast Asian power giant is the only Asian country on the list, a region that is home to world leaders like India, China and Bangladesh.
In 2020, of the total electricity production, Laos produced 80.4% of electricity from hydropower and 18.6% from coal-fired power plants. Notably, the country mainly depends on hydroelectricity. Thus, the Lao government seeks to diversify its energy sources by developing solar, wind and coal-fired power plants to minimize the amount of electricity re-imported from neighboring countries in the dry season.
Export value: $1.89 billion (6.6%)
The North American sovereign is one of the largest exporters of electricity on the planet. With about 6.6% of global energy exports, it exported about $1.9 billion worth of electricity. Consequently, the country was the third largest net exporter of electricity, achieving about $1.7 billion in net exports in 2020. Almost all to the United States.
Hydroelectricity accounts for more than 60% of total electricity production. While about 32% of electricity comes from non-renewable sources like nuclear, natural gas, coal, etc., other renewable sources like wind power make up 5% and solar is almost non-existent. Hydro-Québec is a public utility that manages the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the Canadian province of Quebec and is also the largest Canadian player engaged in international electricity trade.
Export value: $1.74 billion (6%)
The South American country is the fifth largest energy exporter in the world with an export value of around $1.74 billion. It shared 6% of the total electricity exported in 2020. Paraguay was also the second country in terms of net electricity exports with 1.74 billion dollars.
Paraguay is the country with the cleanest electricity production in the world, as 99.9% of its electricity production comes from hydroelectricity and emits no carbon dioxide emissions. Nearly 90% of this energy produced is exported, with neighboring Argentina and Brazil receiving the majority. Moreover, it is also one of the countries with the highest production of hydroelectricity per capita in the world. This is mainly produced by its two large binational dams: Itaipú and Yacyretá.
Norway has also been a major exporter of electricity to its neighborhood, thanks to strong hydroelectric power generation, although the final figures are not yet known.
Closer to home in India, we had done this article on the potential for electricity trading in the South Asian region.
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