When it comes to manufacturing the Britain of today is often depicted as an economy in decline. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that in a particular market the UK is actually the world’s number one exporter, outperforming the US and China.

British power generating sets outsell all other nations in the latest official export figures. Diesel or bi-fuel generating sets are often used as back-up or emergency power when the mains system fails, or to provide energy in remote areas off grid.

The UK has 19% of the electric generator export market – more than China, the nearest rival – and shipped £1.29bn worth around the world in 2012. The majority of this figure comes from sales of diesel generating sets with outputs between 75kVa and 2000kVa (£870,264,579m).

Robert Beebee is chairman of AMPS (Association of Manufacturers of Power generating Systems), the trade association that represents the manufacturers. He commented, “Britain’s reputation for quality generating sets – going all the way back to days of the empire – is second to none. We retain a firm grip on the market, and people, where possible, still like to buy British.”

The Middle East and North Africa imports the largest number globally (29.1%), with countries such as the Saudi Arabia (£108.7m), UAE (£104.1m) and Nigeria (£88.2m) all providing lucrative markets. Offshore and petrochemical installations will certainly contribute to the area’s growing need for generating set power.

Problems with national power infrastructure may also be implied in the statistics. Nigeria (along with countries such as Iraq) has well documented issues with grid power outages, necessitating that all facilities requiring guaranteed power invest in a reliable back-up or standby system.

Institutions such as hospitals cannot afford to be without power, even temporarily, while refugee camps and military bases may have substantial flexible power requirements.

“British generating sets will continue to find applications all over the world,’ added Beebee. “Although Britain can’t compete with China on price alone, by focusing on what we excel at – niche and specialist markets, high value areas and complex specialist solutions – I’m confident we can remain the world leaders.”