Alena Nispel

Norway overtakes France to become largest net energy exporter

February 2021

Norway overtook France to become the biggest net exporter of power in Europe in the second half of 2020.

 

The value of imports and exports in Europe during the last six months of 2020 were looked at. Norway’s total net exports amounted to 14TWh, with most of the power flowing to Sweden (7.2 TWh) and Denmark (4.9 TWh).

 

Norwegian water reserves increased steadily during the second half of 2020, due mainly to a combination of wet weather and low demand, and reached a new peak for the first time since 2015. Norwegian power prices remained low, which made it an attractive economic proposition for other countries to meet their electricity demand by taking some of the excess water from Norway. As a result, Norway doubled its net exports to neighbouring countries compared to the first half of 2020.

 

Norway’s position as the biggest net energy exporter could remain for some time, especially with neighbouring countries such as Denmark relying on Norway for supplies. In addition, Norway recently launched a new interconnector into Germany, increasing its potential export capacity by 1.4 GW.

 

France became the second largest net exporter with 11.6 TWh, with Sweden (10.1 TWh) lying in third place followed by Germany (9.3 TWh).

 

During the winter, nuclear generation in France saw limited availability due to delayed power plant maintenance caused by COVID-19. This had a considerable impact on France’s energy trading pattern, as nuclear generation is the largest contributor to the country’s fuel mix. As a result, France often relied on energy imports from its neighbouring countries – mainly from Spain with a total of 4.5 TWh of energy imports. When France was exporting to Spain, RTE often used countertrading to partly reverse the flow. This also happened on several occasions on the IFA interconnector to Great Britain, where BALIT (cross-border balancing arrangements) was used to maintain the balance on the grid.

 

Although Germany has exported more than France, it has also imported more energy. Due to the amount of power flowing through Germany, it can be seen as a key energy transport hub with power flowing from the north west to the south east of Europe. After German coal generation collapsed in the first half of 2020 due to reduced demand and high renewable output, coal made a comeback during the cold winter on the back of a sharp gas price rise and increasing demand (still lower than previous years) and is now back to pre-COVID levels of utilization.

 

Considering net exports as a percentage of demand, France only exported about 5.3% of its energy demand. In comparison, Bosnia ranked first with a net export of 34.4% of its demand, followed by Slovenia (26.6%) and Norway (21.9%). Like Norway, Slovenia also relies on hydro power but also includes lignite in its fuel mix.

 

Italy remained the biggest net importer of electricity during the last six months of 2020, sourcing 17.6TWh from outside of the country. As Italy could not rely on a large volume of imports from France, it instead sourced more energy from Switzerland (9.6 TWh), which also has significant nuclear capacity. Britain was still Europe’s second biggest net importer, recording net imports of 8.1TWh in the second half of 2020.