UK energy imports

Did you know that up until 2004 the UK was completely self-sufficient in its electricity production? More recently, UK energy imports has been a great way to supply our electricity. It is becoming a much larger aspect of our electricity supply. Trading and importing this electricity through inter-connectors has allowed the UK to use more power from self-supplied renewables as well. The energy we import is often low carbon energy too. But is this a good thing?


UK energy imports, how much and where does it come from?


The UK, as of 2019 currently imports just 4% of its electricity. Though a current programme of investment from the government may see four or five times increase in imports through these inter-connectors. By 2022 the UK will have imported electricity from:

  • France
  • Ireland
  • The Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Norway

The electricity from the majority of these countries will be low carbon. Norway will supply electricity produced from hydro power and France will supply electricity from Nuclear power. By 2030 the UK energy import could increase from 4% to 25%! All through inter-connectors from Europe. Though the UK also plans to sell their electricity in the future too. With the expansion of their offshore wind farms, this is more than feasible. Generation with these wind farms may lead to periods when production exceeds immediate need, therefore allowing that energy to be sold on.


Is this good, or is it bad?


Even with all of the information it is difficult to decide whether this is good or bad for the UK. Some think it is a great way of reaching the net-zero target, especially when buying power from renewable power houses like France or Norway. Others think relying on foreign countries for power will be unreliable and a waste of money that should be used to focus on becoming completely self-sufficient and net-zero.

It is believed that importing energy is a great way to provide balance to the power supply in the UK. The inter-connectors can also be a great help if back up power is needed in a crisis or if emergency energy is needed as a last resort. In terms of our carbon emissions, imported energy does not increase our overall carbon emissions.

We also need to consider that this energy isn’t always carbon free and will therefore actively increase out carbon emissions. This could potentially harm the UK’s effort to reach the government’s 2050 net-zero goal. This is something the UK needs to be responsible for, not only their emissions but ensuring that our emissions aren’t being displaced between other countries through imports.

There is also the risk of taking the control of our energy supply out of the hands of the government. They may have limited control when compared to domestic energy production and supply. On a much more dire note, it may impact trade in the UK. Domestic and business customer might be subject to fluctuating energy prices alongside the already quite volatile markets and global currency fluctuations.

There is also the issue of Brexit, as these trading arrangements after Brexit are not clear.


In conclusion..


Overall, the UK energy imports will need to be adequate enough to ensure that the grid meets demands. As long as these imports can deliver electricity to wherever it is needed and in the right form, this shouldn’t be an issue. It will also need to keep up with the changing amount of energy sources and cope with our heating demand and future EV infrastructure.

What do you think about the UK importing energy? Thanks for taking the time to read this post, have a great day!

The information in this post is from the BBC Energy Brief

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