Stock up on candles for the big power cuts to come

Old-fashioned radiogram
Old-fashioned radiogram
Portsmouth in 1717 (from William Gates History of Portsmouth, 1900)

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I happened to be speaking to a nuclear scientist last week and I asked him why we were not all nuclear-powered in our homes. He told me that wouldn’t happen for many years.

I then asked when our fossil fuels might disappear. What he explained came as a shock.

When most of the houses in Portsmouth were first built at the turn of the last century, electricity was not the major source of power. That came from locally-produced gas.

Light came from gas mantles and heat was from coal or wood-burning fires. In the scullery cooking was done on a coal-fired range.

When electricity was introduced into homes, most only used it for lighting. Stoves and ovens were still coal or gas-fuelled.

By the middle of the 20th century there were some electric cookers and irons and perhaps a few electric fires.

One item that was e lectric was the wireless which was the heart and soul of most homes during the war years. There were also radiograms for playing 78rpm shellac records.

Gas was still the premier fuel source, but after the war new houses were built with ‘clean’ electricity in mind.

My friend asked me when my house was built and I told him 1956. He then made a list of the few items that would have been used at that time for electricity.

Just one light bulb burning in each room. Perhaps a television and perhaps an electric iron but not much else.

Compare that to today’s computers, scanners, printers, mobile phone chargers, electric blankets. In the kitchen a washing machine, fridge-freezer, microwave, dishwasher and perhaps three table lamps burning in the front-room by now called a lounge.

Then came the scientist’s shock forecast. By 2015 there might be power-cuts like those we had during the three-day week in the 1970s as there will not be enough power stations available to feed the grid.

Make sure you stock up with candles.