Statistics Explained

International trade in products related to green energy

This is the stable Version.


Data extracted in October 2021

Planned article update: November 2022

Highlights


China was the largest origin of extra-EU imports of wind turbines, solar panels and liquid biofuels in 2020.

In 2020, the United States was the largest destination for extra-EU exports of wind turbines and solar panels, the United Kingdom for liquid biofuels.

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Extra-EU trade in green energy products, 2020

This article provides a picture of the international trade in green energy products of the European Union (EU) for three products: wind turbines, solar panels and liquid biofuels. It compares these three groups and shows developments over time of both extra-EU imports and exports. Finally, it shows the main partners for extra-EU imports and exports of each of these three products.

Full article

Overall, the EU imports more green energy products than it exports

In 2020, the EU imported solar panels to the value of €8.0 billion, liquid biofuels to the value of €2.9 billion and wind turbines worth €0.3 billion (see Figure 1). The EU import values of solar panels and liquid biofuels in 2020 were much higher than the corresponding EU export values (€1.8 billion and €1.6 billion respectively). By contrast, the EU export value of wind turbines in 2020 (€2.3 billion) was much higher than the corresponding value for imports.

Figure 1: Extra-EU trade in green energy products, 2020
(€ million)
Source: Eurostat Comext DS-645593

In terms of value, imports of wind turbines into the EU in 2020 were higher than they were in 2012 (see Figure 2). This was in contrast to solar panels, for which the value of imports was lower than in 2012. Imports of liquid biofuels in 2020 were almost equal to what they were in 2012.

Figure 2: Extra-EU imports of green energy products, 2012-2020
(€ million)
Source: Eurostat Comext DS-645593

In 2020, exports of liquid biofuels were much higher than in 2012 (see Figure 3). This was in contrast to wind turbines, for which the value of exports was lower than in 2012. Exports of solar panels in 2020 were almost equal to what they were in 2012.

Figure 3: Extra-EU exports of green energy products, 2012-2020
(€ million)
Source: Eurostat Comext DS-645593

Wind turbines: China largest import partner, United States largest export partner

China was by far the largest partner for extra-EU imports of wind turbines in 2020, with 84 % of extra-EU imports originating there (see Figure 4). The largest extra-EU export destination for wind turbines was the United States (28 %), followed by Turkey (19 %) and the United Kingdom (12 %) (see Figure 5).

Figures 4 and 5: Extra-EU imports and exports of wind turbines, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat Comext DS-645593

Solar panels: China largest import partner, United States largest export partner

All of the top-5 partner for extra-EU imports of solar panels in 2020 were Asian countries, of which China (75 %) had by far the largest share (see Figure 6). The largest extra-EU export destination for solar panels was the United States (18 %), followed by Singapore (14 %) and the United Kingdom (11 %) (see Figure 7).

Figures 6 and 7: Extra-EU imports and exports of solar panels, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat Comext DS-645593

liquid biofuels: China largest import partner, United Kingdom largest export partner

Almost half of the extra-EU imports of liquid biofuels in 2020 came from China (27 %) and Argentina (22 %) combined (see Figure 8). Malaysia (13 %) and the United Kingdom (11 %) also had double digit shares in extra-EU imports. The United Kingdom was the destination for 75 % of extra-EU exports of liquid biofuels (see Figure 9).

Figures 8 and 9: Extra-EU imports and exports of liquid biofuels, 2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat Comext DS-645593

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

EU data is taken from Eurostat's COMEXT database. COMEXT is the reference database for international trade in goods. It provides access not only to both recent and historical data from the EU Member States but also to statistics of a significant number of third countries. International trade aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated via the Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process.

Data are collected by the competent national authorities of the Member States and compiled according to a harmonised methodology established by EU regulations before transmission to Eurostat. For extra-EU trade, the statistical information is mainly provided by the traders on the basis of customs declarations.

EU data are compiled according to Community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by the Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 27 EU Member States with countries outside the EU. In other words, the EU is considered as a single trading entity and trade flows are measured into and out of the area, but not within it.

The EU data reflect the political change in the EU composition. Therefore, the United Kingdom was considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU. However, the United Kingdom was still part of the internal market until the end of the transitory period (end 2020), meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom for reference periods till, then were still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. As a consequence, while imports from any other extra-EU trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the United Kingdom data reflect country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU from the United Kingdom were physically transported from the United Kingdom but part of these goods could have been of other origin than the United Kingdom. For this reason data on trade with the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU trade partners.

Methodology

According to the EU concepts and definitions, extra-EU trade statistics (trade between EU Member States and non-EU countries) do not record exchanges involving goods in transit, placed in a customs warehouse or given temporary admission (for trade fairs, temporary exhibitions, tests, etc.). This is known as ‘special trade’. The partner is the country of final destination of the goods for exports and the country of origin for imports.

Unit of measure

Trade values are expressed in millions or billions (109) of euros. They correspond to the statistical value, i.e. to the amount which would be invoiced in the event of sale or purchase at the national border of the reporting country. It is called a FOB value (free on board) for exports and a CIF value (cost, insurance, freight) for imports.

Product codes

The product codes used for the three products shown in this article are:

  • Wind: CN code 8502 31
  • Solar: CN code 8541 40
  • Liquid biofuels: CN codes 2207 20 and 3826 00

Context

Trade is an important indicator of Europe’s prosperity and place in the world. The bloc is deeply integrated into global markets both for the products it sources and the exports it sells. The EU trade policy is an important element of the external dimension of the ‘Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ and is one of the main pillars of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.

Because the 27 EU Member States share a single market and a single external border, they also have a single trade policy. EU Member States speak and negotiate collectively, both in the World Trade Organization, where the rules of international trade are agreed and enforced, and with individual trading partners. This common policy enables them to speak with one voice in trade negotiations, maximising their impact in such negotiations. This is even more important in a globalised world in which economies tend to cluster together in regional groups.

The openness of the EU’s trade regime has meant that the EU is the biggest player on the global trading scene and remains a good region to do business with. Thanks to the ease of modern transport and communications, it is now easier to produce, buy and sell goods around the world which gives European companies of every size the potential to trade outside Europe.

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International trade in goods - long-term indicators (t_ext_go_lti)
International trade in goods - short-term indicators (t_ext_go_sti)
International trade in goods - aggregated data (ext_go_agg)
International trade in goods - long-term indicators (ext_go_lti)
International trade in goods - short-term indicators (ext_go_sti)
International trade in goods - detailed data (detail)