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Column 16th February 2022

Electricity is our life blood

We are becoming ever more reliant on electricity.

There have been several large storms in the UK this winter and most have meant that hundreds or thousands of homes have been without power for days if not weeks.

Luckily this hasn’t happened here in Oxfordshire although we often get power cuts, but most last minutes not hours.

Most of us now have mobile phones and many no longer have land-lines to our homes.

Many of us listen to the radio via digital means (either the internet or via DAB) and even old fashioned radios (using airwaves) are often mains powered.

We’re all being encouraged to get electric cars and replace our gas appliances with electric ones.

Wood burning stoves are also no longer recommended as we go carbon free.

Isolated communities can be totally disconnected if they don’t have electricity.

After a short period of time (a day or two) mobile phone batteries need to be charged as do tablets and laptops. If you don’t have electricity this becomes very difficult.

Heat and light is generally provided by electricity so homes become cold and dark.

Without the ability to recharge your car – how long will the existing charge last?

Solar panels, windmills and hydro plants could provide local power but my experience of such things is that they may be connected directly to the electricity grid and not provide much power locally.

So in an emergency this may not help.

In 1987 I lived in Surrey and after the big storm, trees blocked our rural lane and brought down the power cables - this is a very good reason for making sure all cables are underground not overhead.

We were isolated for about 10 days. Our small community of 8 households was lucky. Between us we had three wood burning stoves which generated heat and hot water, and two cast-iron oil-burning ranges on which to cook.

So we lived together and cooked together until all the trees (some with trunks more than a metre across) had been removed.

The telephones still worked (land-line in those far-off days) so we could reassure friends, family and colleagues that we were safe and well.

The sooner we can guarantee continuous power to everyone or provide adequate alternatives in an emergency, the better.

I would like to live in a carbon free world but want to be able to stay warm, eat and communicate as well.


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