The UK has actually been exporting gas throughout the energy crisis

The Eco Experts

In 2021, Britain exported 31,975 GWh (gigawatt hours) of gas, newly published government data can reveal. For perspective, a single gigawatt hour is enough to power one million homes for one hour.

To put this into some context, in 2020, the UK exported half that amount: 15,830 GWh. Now you could reasonably say this must’ve been because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but then you look at the export figures from 2018 and 2019 (16,439 and 19,633 GWh respectively).

Clearly the UK’s gas exports in 2021 were significantly higher than usual. Why is it happening now though? Of all the times to export more gas than in previous years, surely now, with Russia-Ukraine tensions threatening gas price increases, is the worst possible time?

Image showing text: Department of business, energy & industrial strategy

Is the UK government to blame for this?

Being clear, the blame does not solely lie with the government – the fact is, companies who own the gas are allowed to extract it and sell it to whomever they please with impunity.

This is the reality of privatising something like gas; if another country is willing to pay more for it, a corporation is almost always going to sell it to them instead.

It can be argued that the UK government shouldn’t allow this to happen, particularly considering the concerns over the astronomical rise in gas prices. But beyond nationalising the UK’s gas supply or imposing restrictions on exporting, there simply isn’t a reliable way to stop this from happening.

What makes all this sting is all the talk from government officials and media outlets. It’s been reported time and time again that gas is the solution to our energy crisis, but what is the point if so much of it is exported by private companies?

Where is the gas being exported to?

According to the report, large volumes of gas are being exported through pipelines into Belgium and the Netherlands. This raises another question – why are we exporting gas to these countries, but still importing LNG (liquified natural gas) from them?

What is particularly sad is looking at Norway’s management of their gas and the immense social benefits reaped by every citizen from it. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is now worth £894 billion.

This fund is used to benefit every citizen in the country, providing them with generous welfare benefits. As of 2020, the sovereign wealth fund is now equivalent to around £160,000 for each of the 5.3 million Norwegian citizens.

Now, the UK doesn’t have anywhere near the same reserves of oil and gas as Norway does. The point still stands that at a time when the UK government should be doing everything to help its vulnerable citizens escape fuel poverty, it instead allows businesses to export gas purely for profit.

Written by:
Tom Gill
Tom joined The Eco Experts over a year ago and has since covered the carbon footprint of the Roman Empire, profiled the world’s largest solar farms, and investigated what a 100% renewable UK would look like. Tom has a particular interest in the global energy market and how it works, including the ongoing semiconductor shortage, the future of hydrogen, and Cornwall's growing lithium industry.
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