Increase in imports of technology for energy transition

© Tineke Dijkstra
The Netherlands imported technological products for use in the energy transition worth a total of 16.6 billion euros in 2023, which was 13 percent more than in 2022. Electric and hybrid vehicles formed the largest group, and also the group in which the import value rose the most sharply. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures.
Solar panels and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are among the best-known examples of technological products used in the energy transition [1]. Other such products are used to generate geothermal energy (such as heat pumps), wind energy (such as magnets for wind turbines) and hydro energy, or for biofuels and power storage systems.

In 2023, the most valuable category of imports was electric and hybrid vehicles at 6.9 billion euros. This category also grew the most sharply, up 44 percent by value relative to 2022. The other two major categories are equipment for solar power installations (3.9 billion euros, mainly solar panels), and technology that can be used to generate different types of clean energy (5.0 billion euros). Of this, imports in the category of multifunctional technology (including switchboards, automatic controllers and heat exchangers) were up by 13 percent, while imports in the category of solar power products were down by 16 percent.

Import value of technology products for the energy transition¹⁾
Productcategorie2023 (billion euros)2022 (billion euros)
Electric and hybrid cars6.94.8
Multifunctional technology54.4
Solar energy production3.94.7
Other products0.80.8
¹⁾ Excluding quasi-transit trade.

Germany and China are the main suppliers of technology

Germany is the largest supplier of technology for the energy transition; the Netherlands imported 4.8 billion euros worth of goods from Germany in 2023. In second place is China (3.8 billion euros), followed by Belgium (1.4 billion euros). Imports from Germany, Belgium and South Korea consist mainly of electric and hybrid vehicles, while solar panels are mainly imported from China.

If we include the transit trade in foreign-owned goods, China is the largest supplier of technology for the energy transition (11.8 billion euros, compared to Germany at 6.3 billion euros). This is because the Netherlands imports a lot of solar panels and PEVs from China that are destined for other European countries. Taking all transit trade into account, the Netherlands imported technology for the energy transition with a total value of over 28 billion euros in 2023, 11 percent more than in 2022.

Largest technology suppliers for the energy transition, 2023¹⁾
LandElectric and hybrid cars (billion euros)Solar energy production (billion euros)Multifunctional technology (billion euros)Other products (billion euros)
United States0.
South Korea0.500.10
¹⁾ Excluding quasi transit trade.

Importing raw materials for energy transition

The use of critical raw materials (CRMs) plays a key role in the energy transition. These often enter the Netherlands as components of technology, such as the silicon or gallium used in the solar cells of solar panels, or cobalt and lithium in the batteries of PEVs.

Raw materials are also imported for use in the energy transition. For example, copper and aluminium are being used for the construction of power cables in Europe to extend the power grid needed for the energy transition. This is partly why the Netherlands imports raw materials such as aluminium (import value of 3.2 billion euros in 2023), nickel (1.3 billion euros) and copper (0.6 billion euros). The relevant import values are lower than in 2022, however, due to the normalisation of metal prices in 2023 relative to the record year of 2022. Other critical raw materials, such as lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements, are usually already incorporated in products for the energy transition, and are therefore rarely imported unprocessed.

Import value of raw materials for the energy transition¹⁾
Grondstof2023 (billion euros)2022 (billion euros)
incl. bauxite
Platinum Group
Rare earth
¹⁾ Excluding quasi transit trade

Norway and Iceland largest suppliers of raw materials

In terms of the energy transition, Norway (1.0 billion euros) and Iceland (0.9 billion euros) are the largest suppliers of raw materials to the Netherlands. Imports from Iceland were almost exclusively aluminium, while imports from Norway consisted of 57 percent aluminium and 27 percent nickel.

After Norway and Iceland, Chile (lithium, copper), Australia (nickel) and South Africa (particularly aluminium) are the next-largest suppliers of raw materials to the Netherlands. In 2023, Russia ranked as the eighth supplier of raw materials for the energy transition (in 2022, Russia ranked second after Norway). China is not in the top 10 because it mainly exports finished products that already incorporate critical raw materials, such as solar panels, electric vehicles, magnets and lithium-ion batteries.

Largest suppliers of raw materials for the energy transition, 2023¹⁾
LandAluminium (billion euros)Copper (billion euros)Nickel (billion euros)Other raw materials (billion euros)
South Africa0.2560.0160.1010.015
¹⁾ Excluding quasi transit trade