Just before Christmas, the farmhouse was hit by lightning. Luckily, the only damage was a frazzled bit of wiring, but it left us without power for a couple of days until our pet sparky could get to us. It made me realise just how much things have changed since the storms of 1987 and 1990, which both left us juiceless for some days.
Back then, the two vital things a farm needed were available without electricity: diesel and hot water. The diesel was fed from a tank up on a plinth, and hot water was produced by the Agamatic in vast quantities.
It was lucky that no arable farmwork was possible over this Christmas, because the precious farm diesel now sits behind locked doors, and is dispensed by a 240v pump. It was also a good thing that no-one was getting hot and sweaty out working, because hot water now comes from an electric immersion heater in a tank too small to do more than a couple of showers.
Another innovation since the 1980s is teenagers. It was bad enough them being without wi-fi and television, but our three are fond of their showers, so news of rationing the meagre supply of hot water did not go down very well.
What’s scaring me is that we are going to have to get used to power cuts. Too many years of energy policy being dictated by the “EcoTaliban” and their useful idiots in government mean that dark days – and nights – are coming.
It’s not just the sheer idiocy of wind farms and solar power – of spectacular uselessness on a dark calm night. It’s also the fact that many oil and coal power stations are being shut down under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive. Nuclear power stations are coming to the end of their lives, and very little has been done to research or invest in the next generation.
“In not many years’ time power cuts will be a common feature of daily life.”
Don’t take my word for it: Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, said Britain’s energy system is struggling under the pressure of the “unprecedented challenges.” He said “we will see the reserve margin of generation fall from below 14% to below 5%.” It sounds complicated, but that’s quangocrat-speak for “Help!” It means that, in not many years’ time, power cuts will be a common feature of daily life. Never mind the short-lived darkness of the fatuous “Earth Hour” – it’ll be long stretches of “Let’s Be North Korea”.
I realised that it’s time to rethink my wishlist. The new Roland electric piano will have to wait for a bit, and I need to forget about replacing my Browning B27 with that lovely sporterized Miroku Grade 3 Trap that I keep stumbling across on the internet.
Instead, it’s time to put the exploded Agamatic on the scrap skip and invest in a wood-burning boiler in its place. It’ll keep the kitchen warm and supply lashings of hot water. And then get a decent diesel-powered generator. One that can keep a household full of electricity junkies happy.
It will also be vital to keep the fuel flowing into the tractors, and power the pressure washer, and light the security lights, and all the other essentials of an average arable farm. Most crucially, it’ll power the computer so I can browse for that new Miroku or Roland.
And if I keep the old Roland electric piano, at least it’ll still work.
Charlie Flindt is a tenant of a National Trust, farming 380ha at Hinton Ampner, Hampshire
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