Living without electricity

4 Nov 2010
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United Kingdom
Elsewhere I came across a link to this report, "Living without Electricity, One city's experience of coping with loss of power". From the foreword :
In December 2015, life for more than 100,000 people in Lancaster reverted to a pre-electronics era. A flood at an electricity substation resulted in a blackout over the entire city that lasted for more than 24 hours. Suddenly people realised that, without electricity, there is no internet, no mobile phones, no contactless payment, no lifts and no petrol pumps. Although these dependencies were not difficult to see, few had thought through the implications of losing so many aspects of modern life at once.
Three months after the event, Lancaster University brought together representatives from local organisations with policy makers and power system specialists. The conclusions of the workshop are summarised in this report. The failure of the power supply in Lancaster was an important reminder that things will occasionally go wrong and we must learn the lessons from such events.

Basically, for historical reasons, all 3 132kV feeds for the city go into one substation down by the river, with Storm Desmond in Dec 2015 the river level rose higher than the improved flood protection for the substation, and the city got blacked out. From the sound of things, Electricity Northwest (ENWL, the DNO) did an amazing job of getting supplies back up.

Makes very interesting and sobering reading. I think a lot of us will have thought about the dependence of things like the internet and mobiles on electricity. But the majority of people probably just assume that they "will always be there" - especially with a belief that "mobiles don't need power" :rolleyes:
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We had a 30odd hour power cut a couple of years ago.

It was great, like camping indoors :)
especially with a belief that "mobiles don't need power"

A leak in a water tower flooded an area under the tower and knocked out the power supply to the nicro-wave links for a ciupe of mobile phone networks, Four mobile nasts were out of action, they had power but they had no communication with the network. Eventually with the 11kV supply still out of use a mobile generator was installed. The leak started on March 5th and ( at the latest update ) is stilll leaking. Health and Safety is making it very difficult to replace the failed valve,
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Possibly...I remembered them around 1973/4, but they may have gone on for longer.
Ah the good old days ..... 3 day week, power cuts (timed so that dinner could be prepared & eaten) in the evening, TV broadcasts closing down at 10:30 pm (assuming the power was back on by then), introduction of the 50 mph speed limit, maximum temperature for commercial buildings, petrol shortages.

And you try and tell that to the young people of today - will they believe you - Nooooooo

Yeah, I remember power cuts when I was a kid - late 70s.
I am still thinking about having a wood burner, just for when there is a powercut. Gas central heating needs electric to run!
My parents and a friend were both without a boiler for a week during the last cold snap - both had wood burners and survived in the lounge, while the rest of the house was below zero.

Watched a film earlier in the year that is pretty much about this - Into The Forest.
If there was one around Christmas 1977, it could have helped me be conceived :)
I recall <cough cough> years ago having a farmer I used to work for asking when my birthday was ... and fairly quickly concluding that I was just too old to be a product of the '63 freeze :whistle:
But yes, I remember the 70s power cuts - checking the schedules in the NorWEB showroom window on the way home from school, playing board games by candlelight while the power was off, and relying on the open fire in the lounge for heat. Roll forward 4 decades and we'll be sat around wondering what on earth to do without any internet or TV :rolleyes: For heating, a few weeks ago I replaced the FCU feeding the boiler with a socket - so it's easy to plug the boiler into an alternative source (UPS, generator).
Ah the good old days ..... 3 day week, power cuts (timed so that dinner could be prepared & eaten) in the evening, TV broadcasts closing down at 10:30 pm (assuming the power was back on by then), introduction of the 50 mph speed limit, maximum temperature for commercial buildings, petrol shortages.
i was a train driver then and where told to turn off the heating on electric trains
at guildford station an irate commuter came up knocked on the cab window and complained the heating was on
i tried to explain but he carried on irately and started going on about depriving people off there deserved electricity
i calmly pointed out when i could get a word in edgeways this train was a demu standing for diesel electric multiple unit
he still didn't twig even when i said look for the current collection shoes which off course we didnt have
it wasnt until i left guildford by the look on his face that he realized the heavy thumping was a diesel
yes the do run in quite quietly look exactly the same as the then electric stock but no mistaking when you leave :LOL:
I seem to remember some form of electricity rationing in the 70's, where each area had no power for certain nights etc.
And a massive scam by HMG in the 3 day week as well- if your 3 days were thur,fri,sat then you got unemployment benefit for mon,tue,wed. If your 3 days were mon,tue,wed you only got benefits for thur and fri (sat was 'not a working day'). Can remember my father getting very irate about that one
Yes remember 3 day week, can't remember how we kept freezers going, think the power out was short enough for them not to defrost? But living on the Falklands I know the freezer was the main problem with living with no electric or at least only electric when generator is running.

The upright freezer as I found to my cost is only good for around 3 hours if kept full, near empty even an hour can be a problem, the chest freezer is far better, it will last 12 hours without power if nearly full in a non heated room.

Living in a caravan when building Sizewell 'B' gas lights, gas fridge, could do without electric even had a foot pump for water, however the heater used then had no flue, there were balanced flue versions, but not in my caravan, so the caravan would get damp unless I could get electric in the winter months.

Again buy a pack of beef burgers and it was beef burgers for 3 days, as only had a fridge, very few ready meals then. However there was Vesta, these dried meals would keep for years without freezer, just add water.

I think in the main we are forced to use electric by what is available, not seen a gas light in a caravan for years, 1975 people still had gas fridges in their houses, today only caravans.

Main thing seems to be safety, that is why gas lights not found in caravans, or gas fridges in boats, often no gas in high rise flats, now the induction hob allows electric cooking with exception of a wok to compete with gas, how long will gas cooking carry on before it is banned? Clearly not as safe as electric.

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