Monday 15 July 2013

It is easy to forget in a modern, developed democracy but there is a very real link between electrical power and political power.  This is most noticeable in emerging economies but it is true everywhere – probably because in most countries used to 24/7 reliable power a prolonged (or even a short) time without electrical power would quickly lead to the fall of a government.


This link was most noticeable to me in my time in Romania (1994-1998) which was quite soon after the fall of Nicolae Ceauşescu and communism.  There was an old adage in Romania. ‘When the President of the country telephones the President of the electricity company the President of the power company may or may not take the call, depending on what he is doing or what he feels like.  If the President of the power company calls the President of the country, the President of the country always takes the call.’  I am not sure how true it was but it was told to me by a former President of the power company and it really reflected the power of the power utility.  It was further brought home to me when during the election of 1996, (which led to the first post-communist change of power and the first President who was not associated with the former regime), when there were stories of local power officials using the threat of power cuts to industrial enterprises to encourage block voting in a certain way.


Anyway, there clearly is a link at many levels – the prolonged absence of electricity could cause civil unrest and ultimately the downfall of a government.  If the UK power crisis does get to the situation where the “lights go off”, i.e. there are blackouts – which with luck we will avert (luck not the best thing to plan on!) – we will once again see the close link between electrical power and political power, a link not really seen in the UK since the dark days of the miner’s strike and the three day week of the 1974.


For any readers too young to remember the three day week see for details.


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Dr Steven Fawkes

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