A Megawatt is a measure of energy per unit time

  • in this case one million joules per second
  • one watt being one joule per second

Abbreviation is MW

Not to be confused with MWh


In energy trading we usually refer to electricity as power

In physics power is energy per unit time

  • so a Megawatt is a measure of power
  • It is easier though to think of a Megawatt as a flow rate of energy
  • that is so much energy flowing per second, or per hour
  • think of MW being like the speed of a car (MWh are the distance the car has travelled)

Gas and power trades are often specified in Megawatts because they have a continuous flow rate

However energy trades are priced in terms of energy (e.g. €45.3/MWh) so we need to be able to calculate the number of MWh of the trade or delivery period

This is easy if we use the equation:

1 MWh = 1 MW flowing for one hour

and simply remember this

Megawatt.hours = Megawatts x hours


MWh = MW x hours

Just like the speed of a car:

you can't meaningfully add two values in Megawatts at different times  - what does it mean to add two speeds together at different points on the Motorway?

If I drive 60 mph for 10 minutes, then 72 mph for the next 5 minutes, does the number 132 mph mean anything? (No!)

If I flow 10 MW one day and 20 MW the next day, the value 30 MW has no meaning

you can meaningfully add two values in Megawatt hours at different times

If I drive 10 miles in the first ten minutes, then 6 miles in the next five minutes, then I have driven 16 miles in total

If I flow 240 MWh one day and 480 MWh the next day, then I have flowed 720 MWh over the two days

you can't normally price something in Megawatts - a toll road makes you pay per mile, it doesn't matter how fast you went

For clarity:

1 Watt = 1 joule per second; 1 W = 1 j/s

1 kilowatt = 1,000 Watts; 1 kW = 1,000 W

1 Megawatt = 1,000 kilowatts; 1 MW = 1,000 kW

1 Gigawatt = 1,000 Megawatts; 1 GW = 1,000 MW

1 Terawatt = 1,000 Gigawatts; 1 TW = 1,000 GW

» Detailed Glossary