Britain was net exporter of electricity to Europe in Q2 for first time in over a decade, trade surplus worth nearly £1.5B; energy crises poses opportunity for Britain to grow trade surplus by investing in long duration electricity storage technologies

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October 4, 2022 (press release) –

For the first time in over a decade, Britain became a net exporter of electricity to its European neighbours, making around £1.5bn for the economy in three months.

  • Britain exported more power to Europe than ever before in the second quarter of the year, making it a net exporter of electricity for the first time in over a decade, according to a new report.
  • The new trade surplus with Europe was worth around £1.5 billion for the UK economy during the period.
  • The energy crisis in Europe may have shone a light on an opportunity for Britain to become ‘Europe’s power battery’ by investing in long duration electricity storage technologies.

For the first time in over a decade, Britain became a net exporter of electricity to its European neighbours, making around £1.5bn for the economy in three months.

An independent report by academics from Imperial College London for Drax Electric Insights, commissioned via Imperial Consultants, shows that in the three months to June 2022, 8% (5.5TWh) of the electricity generated by Britain was exported abroad – the largest amount on record.

Whilst Russia throttled gas supplies and France suffered severe reliability problems with its nuclear power stations, Britain developed a trade surplus in electricity with the rest of Europe.

The excess was exported abroad through subsea cables known as interconnectors.

Share of British electricity that was imported and exported each quarter.

The report’s authors estimate the trade surplus was worth around £1.5 billion for the UK economy during the three months to June.

Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, and lead author of the quarterly Electric Insights report, said:
“Britain has played an important role in helping to keep the lights on across Europe amid the deepening energy crisis which is being weaponised by Russia against our nearest neighbours.

“With Europe now facing long-term security of supply problems, there could be an economic argument for Britain to step up investment in power production in the years ahead to build an even bigger trade surplus, and protect our nation from damaging energy shortages.”

Another country highlighted by the report to have exported more power than usual to the continent was Norway, with its vast hydro reservoirs being drained to their lowest levels since 1996. Even Britain was a net importer of power from the Scandinavian state over the period, using the country’s enormous hydro storage capacity to balance out drops in supply from intermittent sources of electricity such as wind and solar farms.

The Electric Insights report states there could be “value in increasing the amount of pumped hydro energy storage in the UK” to balance shortfalls in supply from renewables, rather than relying on Norwegian imports. The UK has just under 3GW of pumped storage hydro capacity, less than half of the capacity of comparable countries like Germany.

While the need for the UK to have greater long duration energy storage capacity is growing, barriers to securing private investment in these projects means it has been almost 40 years since a new pumped storage hydro power station was built here.

There are growing calls from the energy industry for the government to introduce measures to support the roll-out of a new generation of long duration storage plants.

Drax is progressing plans to build a new 600 MW underground pumped storage hydro facility at its existing Cruachan site in Scotland.

Ian Kinnaird, Drax’s Scottish Assets Director, said:
“Britain desperately needs a new generation of pumped storage hydro plants to strengthen its own energy security, but it is clear the rest of Europe would benefit as well.

“We have the opportunity to become Europe’s power battery, helping our friends and neighbours reduce their dependence on energy from Russia whilst enabling more homegrown renewable electricity to power UK homes and businesses. It’s an opportunity which Britain should take, or risk being left behind by other countries.”


Media contacts:
Aidan Ker
Media Manager
T: +44 (0)7849090368

Ali Lewis
Head of Media & PR
T: +44 (0)7712 670 888

Industry Intelligence Editor's Note: This press release omits select charts and/or marketing language for editorial clarity. Click here to view the full report.

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