The Top 5: Biggest Exporters of Electricity in the World

Highlights :

  • The international sales revenue in 2020 from total global electricity was USD 28.8 billion
  • Among the continents, Europe and Asia the biggest exporters of electricity
The Top 5: Biggest Exporters of Electricity in the World

In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the western world reacted with a slew of sanctions on Russia. As it turns out, the sanctions topped short of a complete ban on Russian energy – oil, gas, and coal imports. Even as the UK decided to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year, while also reducing its Russian gas imports by two-thirds.

Though the moves of the western world may well be retribution for the invasion of Russia in Ukraine, they may have adverse consequences for the global economy. Thence, the effect was evident right after the invasion of Ukraine as oil and gas prices soared. Russia is the third-biggest producer of oil in the world after the US and Saudi Arabia.

More than half of the 5 million barrels of crude oil Russia produces goes to Europe. Comparatively, the US is less reliant, with about 3% of its oil imports coming from Russia in 2020. Russian gas accounts for about 40% of the EU’s natural gas imports. In 2021, the European Union imported an average of over 380 million cubic metres (mcm) per day of gas by pipeline from Russia, or around 140 billion cubic metres (bcm) for the year as a whole. As well as that, around 15 bcm was delivered in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The total 155 bcm imported from Russia accounted for around 45% of the EU’s gas imports in 2021 (Source: IEA). All this, simply goes to show that the need for electrification of the global economy, by shifting more and more sectors to being powered by electricity over fossil fuels, as we see in transportation and EV’s for instance, is urgent.

Electricity for Hegemony

The Ukraine-Russia chapter also brought back to notice the vulnerability of nations, including the developed world, to the energy sector disruptions. Can the major electricity exporting countries dent the energy hegemony of today’s oil and gas exporting countries?

The value of global electricity exports declined by 12.8 per cent in 2019-2020, yet the international sales revenue from total global electricity was a hefty USD 28.8 billion.

Among the continents, exporters in Europe sold the highest dollar worth of electricity with a shipment value of $17.9 billion or 62.3 per cent of the global total. Contrastingly, the Asian exporters were at 17.7 per cent, while 7.7 per cent was from North America, ahead of Latin America, a 7.1 per cent (excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean). Africa shared 5.2 per cent of global exports.

In terms of gross electricity imports in 2020, the top importers of electricity were Italy ($2.23B), the United States ($2.01B), Germany ($1.99B), Thailand ($1.76B), and Brazil ($1.5B). The top electricity net importers are led by the United States with about a $1.7 billion net export deficit 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 the total imports minus total exports.

So, which are the major countries electrifying the world? Here is a list of the five biggest exporters of electricity in the world.

#1 Germany

Exports Value: $3.3 billion (11.5% of total global exports)

Sharing over 11.5 per cent of the global electricity export, Germany was the biggest exporter of electricity in the world. While the overall export was over $3 billion, country was at sixth position in terms of net exports which stood at $1 billion.

Evidently, the European powerhouse developed over 52 per cent of total electricity in 2020 using non-renewable sources such as lignite, hard coal, nuclear energy, natural gas and mineral oil products. Developing roughly 3 per cent from miscellaneous sources, the country developed over 44 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind power, water power, biomass, photovoltaic energy, household waste and geothermal. E.ON SE, one of the world’s largest investor-owned electric utility service providers, is a major German firm engaged in the country’s international trade of electricity.

#2 France

Exports Value: $2.2 billion (7.5%)

An immediate neighbour of electricity giant Germany is also our runner-up in the list of the biggest exporters of electricity – France. In the year 2020, France generated about $2.2 billion from electricity exports, which is a 7.5 per cent share of global exports. Yet the country was a rank better, at fifth, than its neighbour in terms of the net value of exports – crossing over $1.3 billion.

France generates electricity from five major sources: coal, natural gas, liquid fuels, nuclear power – non-renewables; and renewables. Interestingly, nuclear power constituted the largest portion of French electricity generation. This was over 67 per cent in 2020, which also makes the country with the largest share of nuclear electricity in the world. Renewables accounted for around 23 per cent of the electricity generation in the country. The non-renewables shared roughly 8 per cent of the production. Électricité de France is an electric utility company, largely owned by the French state, that deals in electricity exports for the nation.

#3 Laos

Exports Value: $1.93 billion (6.7%)

With the highest net exports ($1.8 billion) in the world, Laos stood third in list of the biggest exporters of electricity in 2020. The Southeast Asian electricity giant is the only Asian country on the list, a region that houses global leaders like India, China, and Bangladesh.

As of 2020, of the total electricity production, Laos generated 80.4 per cent of electricity from hydropower and 18.6 per cent from coal power plants. Notably, the country is dependent majorly on hydropower. Thus, the Lao government looks to diversify its sources of energy by developing solar, wind power and coal power plants to minimize the amount of electricity re-imported from neighbouring countries in the dry season.

#4 Canada

Exports Value: $1.89 billion (6.6%)

The North American sovereign is one of the biggest exporters of electricity on the planet. With about 6.6 per cent of global energy exports share, it exported roughly $1.9 billion worth of electricity. Hence, the country was the third-largest net exporter of electricity making around $1.7 billion in net exports in 2020. Almost all to the US.

Of the total electricity production, hydropower constitutes over 60 per cent. While, roughly 32 per cent of electricity comes from non-renewable sources like nuclear, natural gas, coal, etc., other renewable sources like wind energy accounts for 5 per cent, and the 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 biggest Canadian player engaged in the international trade of electricity.

#5 Paraguay

Exports Value: $1.74 billion (6%)

The South American country is the fifth largest exporter of energy in the world with an export value of around $1.74 billion. It shared 6 per cent of the total electricity exported in 2020. Paraguay was also the second biggest nation in terms of net exports of electricity at $1.74 billion.

Paraguay is the country with the cleanest electric power production in the world, as 99.9% of its electricity generation comes from hydropower and has zero carbon dioxide emissions. Nearly 90 per cent of this generated energy is exported, with neighbouring Argentina and Brazil receiving the majority. In addition, it is also among the countries with the highest production of hydroelectricity per capita at the global level. This is mainly produced by its two large binational dams: Itaipú and Yacyretá.

Norway has also been a major power exporter to its neighbourhood, thanks to a high Hydro power generation, although final numbers are yet to come in.


Closer home in India, we had done this feature on the potential for power trading in the South Asian region.

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Junaid Shah

Junaid holds a Master of Engineering degree in Construction & Management. Being a civil engineering postgraduate and using his technical prowess, he has channeled his passion for writing in the environmental niche.