Energy and power: trading in projects and services

Regulations for exporters and importers in the energy and power sector, and how to research the countries you're exporting to.

This guidance was withdrawn on

You can view the UK Trade and Investment website for export guidance, at:


This guide provides an overview of the energy and power sector, the key regulations you will need to comply with as an exporter or importer and selected sources of further help and support.

It will also show you how to research the countries you’re exporting to.

Export regulations in the energy and power sector

Regulations, charges or other restrictions may apply to energy and power exports as they leave the UK and when they arrive at their destination country. It is important that you research both sides of the transaction.

For more information, see the guides on exporting your goods from the EU to a third country and dispatching your goods within the EU.

First, you need to classify your goods. Use of standardised classification codes in the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom (the Tariff) makes it easier to check if any restrictions or charges apply.

Remember that in general it is much simpler to trade with other EU countries than with countries outside the EU. This is because the goods are in free circulation. The EU is a single market and the UK is in a Customs Union, allowing trade with other EU countries without restriction (although some local charges may still apply).

If you export nuclear products, you must comply with strict regulations. Likewise, if you handle any oil or gas products, you’ll also have to comply with certain regulations. For more details, see the guide on oil, gas, refining and petrochemicals.

Export licensing and certification

An export licence is required to export specified goods with military uses. The list of goods requiring a licence does not include any energy or power products, although you may require a licence for goods with a potential military use, eg components for use in nuclear production. In addition, similar licensing rules apply when brokering the sale of certain Dual-Use Goods that could be used for military purposes and in particular for weapons of mass destruction. For more information, you can see the page on export licences for military and Dual-Use Goods in the guide on aerospace and defence.

You can download guidance on brokering Dual-Use Goods from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) website (PDF, 168K).

Watch a video about your export control responsibilities and how you can ensure you have the correct licences on the BIS website.

Trading in nuclear energy

If you handle nuclear energy or dual-use products, you’ll have to comply with strict regulations.

Nuclear materials include: Uranium Ore concentrates, Plutonium, Uranium 233, Uranium enriched in the isotopes 233 or 235, natural Uranium and mixtures, compounds and alloys containing any of the foregoing, including spent or irradiated nuclear reactor fuel elements (cartridges).

Products that have a civil and military application are defined as ‘dual-use’. The Community General Export Authorisation governs some of these products to certain countries. See the guide on controls on Dual-Use Goods.

Export restrictions

If you intend to export certain types of sensitive nuclear equipment, some of these may appear on what is called the ‘trigger list’. The Export Control Organisation (ECO) assesses these applications and sets out the important factors to bear in mind when you apply for a licence. To find information about the trigger list, see the guide the export of nuclear equipment, material and technology - ‘Trigger List’ requirements. For detailed information on the various aspects of controlled goods, see the guides on the Export Control Organisation and key licensing guidance.

You can subscribe to receive ECO Notices to Exporters by email. To apply, email the ECO at - and include your name, your company or organisation name, email address and telephone number.

Import restrictions

Nuclear materials may not be imported under the Open General Import Licence unless consigned from a member state of the European Community (EC). Imports of such materials from third countries will therefore require individual import licences from the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS). You can download an application form to import nuclear materials from the HSE website (PDF, 161 KB).

For the latest news on banned and restricted goods, or changes in licensing requirements, you should refer to the notices to importers on the BIS website.

Health, safety and environment

Health and safety is of great importance when you’re handling any kind of nuclear-related products. In the UK, nuclear safety issues are the responsibility of the HSE. The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is part of the HSE and regulates nuclear safety. Read an overview of nuclear health and safety on the HSE website.

The HSE also governs the import of certain carcinogenic substances - including goat hair and other types of animal hair which may, for example, carry anthrax - by prohibiting or placing conditions on import from certain countries.

If you keep, use, accumulate and/or dispose of radioactive substances, you are likely to need an environmental permit.

Special requirements also apply to the transportation of nuclear materials. If you have an enquiry related to such movement, you can call the OCNS Transport Security Inspectorate on Tel 01235 432952.

You can use this site to find details and apply to get an environmental permit.

Researching your export destination in the energy and power sector

As a starting point you may wish to seek advice from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). Find your local international trade team on the UKTI website. There are a number of issues to consider when researching country or countries you would like to export your goods to. Read sector briefings or find business opportunities on the UKTI website.

When carrying out your research - whether online or via print resources, you will want to check whether there are:

  • bans or restrictions on your products
  • import or export licensing restrictions
  • rates of duty payable when your goods enter your export market
  • special handling, labelling and/or transportation requirements along the supply chain

You should also consider product safety and other technical standards in your export market. Your goods may need to be adapted to comply with these. Rules in your export market may be less or more strict than in the UK.

For an overview of market information on sectors and countries, see the guide on researching and entering overseas markets.

You can ask for information about your export destination country from a range of organisations, including:

  • your local UKTI trade team
  • your UKTI team within the commercial section of the UK embassy in your destination country
  • energy and power sector trade associations
  • the Chambers of Commerce in the UK and in your destination country

You can read about partnership programmes offering business support to the automotive sector on the UK Trade & Investment website.

Tariffs and duties in the energy and power sector

All businesses in this sector must comply with a range of import-specific regulations. The key issues relate to the Tariff, duties, Intrastat and intellectual property (IP).

Using the Integrated Tariff

A common customs tariff is applied across all EU countries on goods imported from outside the EU. Details of specific tariff duties and measures are contained in the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom.

The Tariff is used to determine the specific classification code of your goods and to find out:

  • any licensing requirements that apply

  • the rates of duty and import VAT that apply

  • any additional charges, eg anti-dumping duties

  • any available preferential duty rates

Preferential rates of duty

The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) allows originating products from a wide range of countries to be imported into the EU at a reduced or zero rate of duty. See Trade preference agreements: import and export.

For more information on how to determine whether a product is an originating one, read Notice 830 - Tariff Preference: New GSP rules of origin on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website.

You can read the scope and coverage of the GSP applicable for 2009-11 on the HMRC website.

You can access a guide for traders on GSP rules of origin on the EC website.

The EC has a number of other preferential trade agreements with third countries and goods may attract preferential rates of duty as a result. Find out if your goods qualify for a preferential rate of duty and meet the appropriate rules of origin on the HMRC website.


If you are VAT registered and the goods you acquire from or supply to VAT-registered businesses in other EU countries reach the Intrastat exemption threshold for the year, you must submit monthly supplementary declarations to HMRC. The thresholds are £600,000 for Arrivals and £250,000 for Dispatches.

Intrastat is the method of collecting information and producing statistics on goods traded between EU member states. See the guide on Intrastat - reporting the value and volume of intra-EU trade. Intrastat is only applicable to VAT-registered traders.

Intellectual property

You should ensure that imported goods do not breach the IP rights of other businesses, eg watch out for counterfeit goods and design infringements. Infringing goods can be seized and destroyed by HMRC. You can ask HMRC to check for imported counterfeit versions of your goods. Read how HMRC can help protect your IP rights on the HMRC website. For more information, see the guide on how to protect your intellectual property. 

Import regulations in the energy and power sector

As the EU is a Customs Union, you can buy most goods from other member countries without restrictions - although VAT and excise duty can still apply. For more information, see the guide on trading in the EU. You can also see the guide on imports and purchases from abroad: paying and reclaiming VAT.

If you import from outside the EU, you may have to comply with import licensing requirements and with common customs tariffs that apply across the EU. For more information, see the guide on importing your goods from outside the EU.

Import licences

Import restrictions can be product-specific or trade-specific. Many products are subject to product-specific standards and need to be supported by applicable certificates, product-specific licences and documentation.

Quite separately, quantitative restrictions or limitations and anti-dumping duties may apply to certain imported goods. For more information, see the guide on anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

For help identifying whether you require an import licence see the guide Import and export licences for controlled goods 

Specific regulations apply if you trade in oil and gas. For more details, see the guide on oil, gas, refining and petrochemicals.

If you’re importing renewable energy goods that will subsequently be used to generate electricity, you must comply with the Climate Change Levy (CCL). Exemptions apply if certain conditions are met. Read about the CCL and electricity generated from renewable sources on the HMRC website.

Sources of help and support in the energy and power sector

As an importer or exporter in the energy and power sector, you can turn to a range of bodies for help and information.

The government organisation with primary responsibility for providing trade support is UK Trade & Investment. You can find information on the services UK Trade & Investment offer to exporters on the UK Trade & Investment website.

You can also find your local international trade team on the UK Trade & Investment website.

Government sources of help and information

In addition to UK Trade & Investment, other government bodies provide business support in the energy and power sector.

You can find information about importing and exporting on the HMRC website.

If your business is involved in the import or export of renewable energy products, the Climate Change Projects Office (CCPO) may be able to assist you in pursuing opportunities arising from the Kyoto Protocol. CCPO is jointly funded by the BIS and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). You can access CCPO business guides to help you develop a climate change project on the BIS website.

Trade associations and other bodies

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) is the regulator for Britain’s gas and electricity industries. The price your business pays for electricity is governed by price control administered by Ofgem.

If your business is involved with nuclear-related products, you should be aware of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). You can read about nuclear transfer guidelines agreed by all member states - including the UK - on the NSG website.

You may also come into contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which promotes the safe and secure use of nuclear energy between United Nations member states.

Find a list of contacts providing business support to the power sector on the UK Trade & Investment website.

Further information

HMRC Tariff Classification Service Enquiry Line

01702 366 077

Ofgem Business Infoline

020 7901 7003

UK Trade & Investment Enquiry Line

020 7215 8000

Carbon Trust Advice Line

0800 085 2005

Energy policy for a competitive Europe on the EC website

Download guidance on the trade (brokering) of Dual-Use items from the BIS website (PDF, 168K)

International trade team search on the UK Trade & Investment website

Export restriction checker on the BIS Goods Checker website (registration required)

Nuclear health and safety information on the HSE website

OCNS annual reports on security in the civil nuclear industry and other guidance publications on the HSE website

Educational booklets and other industry information on the Nuclear Industry Association website

Goods classification guidance on the HMRC website

Renewable source electricity guidance on the HMRC website

Trade data information on the uktradeinfo website

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) overview on the NSG website

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publications, reports and documents on the IAEA website

Climate change, carbon footprint reduction and what they mean for business on the Confederation of British Industry website

Publications on coal mining technologies and statistics on The Coal Authority website

Published 18 September 2012