Power Lines: But Who Has The Power?



I suppose we English take the presence of electricity pylons for granted. They march across our countryside enabling us to make toast and boil the kettle, watch TV and keep the packs of supermarket frozen peas frozen,  to heat our homes and charge the appliances we think we can’t live without – cell phones, tablets, laptops, cameras.

It makes me wonder though – how much power we actually need, and just when we might get around to deploying clean, renewable energy sources. Next stop fracking.

These particular pylons dominate the fields around Benthall Hall above the Severn Gorge, and until last year transmitted energy generated at the now decommissioned Ironbridge Power Station.  I’m not sure how our lights stay on these days, or who to ask about it – which to me suggests a worrying situation.

We regard the provision of electricity as our natural right, while at the same time rarely considering how little personal power we have in how it is produced and delivered. We probably don’t know who owns it – this absolutely essential resource. The same applies to that other absolute necessity – the clean water that pours from our taps. So I’m also wondering if we haven’t surrendered too much power – blithely assuming that the corporate owners (whoever and wherever in the world they are) will always act in our best interest and give us what we need?



This week at Black & White Sunday Paula asks us to show her ‘towering’.

63 thoughts on “Power Lines: But Who Has The Power?

  1. Excellent, thought provoking post, Tish…

    I am reading a book named ‘Natural Capitalism’ by Paul Hawken, which also raises many a questions you shared with us here.

    Thank you so much for sharing and have a beautiful day 🙂

  2. The colours in these photos are superb and mildly sinister. You raise excellent questions. J is planning to go off-grid when he returns to Australia. His power consumption is minimal and his connection fee monstrous. A blackout is not a major emergency for him even now, and I’m envious of this self-sufficiency. We really are dependent on the suppliers of our power and governments seem to be divesting themselves of responsibility – not that governments are reliable either. Thanks for being provocative!

    1. My pleasure provocation-wise, Meg. I don’t often give myself permission to be so in blog world. But this issue is niggling me to say the least. Off-grid on all utilities sounds like a good idea to me. It involves much work of course. And takes a lot of daily responsibility -not only re consumption, but on waste management too.

  3. I saw an eyesore,
    polluting all the streams,
    Merrily, merrily merrily merrily,
    There go all our dreams.

    Sorry … couldn’t; help myself..


    This message is brought to you by someone also using way too much electricity.

    1. A good ditty, Ark, with a sinister edge. Sometimes I think we are sleepwalking through our lives. Line of least resistance and all that. It takes so much effort, and not a little courage to change things for the better.Conversely, it always seems far too easy to change things for the worse. My thought for the day 🙂

      1. When there is profit in it (change) things move at an alarming rate of knots.
        The key, I believe is to sell a viable alternative to those holding the reigns of power at the moment.
        (pun intended).

      2. That would be a cunning knack – to get vested interest and the public interest all on the same side. In the meantime we are constantly be-dazed and pixillated by too much, mostly useless ‘information’ that stops us from seeing what’s actually going on. Ooops. Better put my soap box away before I really get started.

      3. The current natural resources are finite so whether in our lifetimes or several generations down the line things will change. This is an ironclad guarantee.
        How radical this changer one never knows.
        Once upon a time many of us thought Betamax was the be all and end all of Home Entertainment.

  4. That’s quite thought provoking.
    With water, at least at the moment, we can sink boreholes, buy a small filtration plant and be good. Power is another ballgame altogether

    1. Do you have to have planning permission in Kenya for boreholes, Noel. I’m not sure we’d be allowed to sink them in the UK. Or at least there’d be a helluva planning process involved if it were possible. I think even old existing private water systems are subject to regulations. A lot of red tape in other words. For our own good of course.

      1. Blimey. That’s extraordinary. Trouble with boreholes they can be contaminated by cesspits but I don’t need to tell you that. It was a big problem in Lusaka during the rainy/cholera season.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Janet. We really don’t know half of what goes on, even in our own parishes. Even at this level local democratic activities are so very tedious and unnecessarily convoluted that most people haven’t the will to engage with them. Having spent hours in council chambers, and seen attempts to secure public interest endlessly thwarted by small-time local bigwigs, I can understand why people don’t engage. But I’m thinking we need to.

      1. Interesting that you should bring local council work up. One of my friends in Crickhowell is on the council and was saying almost exactly the same thing as you….Yes, we do need to engage, but it can be exhausting and frustrating at times. I have been overseeing the care of my 95 year old mother for the past eight years…three in her home and five in a nursing home….and when I observe the ‘system’ at work….and I have tried to get involved – even writing letters to number 10 about care for the aged…..it can boggle the mind at times. One step at a time:)

      2. I do sympathize with your great labour of caring. Such hard work, and for those we love. Nothing is joined up in officialdom, despite the claims of transparency.

  5. Food for serious thought, Tish. There are so many layers to many of the things like this we wonder about that it can be difficult to find the answers and when we do, to do anything about them if we want to.


  6. provocative and had me chuckling with these understated ruminations on foreign powers & English power houses 😉
    before electricity we had the power to make our own light and heat – just ask Prometheus

    1. Absolutely, it was down to Thatcher – the wretched woman. My thinking here is that with the passing of time since privatization, it just goes on being less clear as to who owns what without spending a lot of time doing a lot of research, which includes knowing where to start.

  7. Like the UK, we Kiwis have surrendered our utilities to private companies and now wonder why our bills are so high, why it’s made so difficult for individuals with solar panels to feed back to the grid, and most recently, how the water supply for a town became contaminated, leaving over 6000 people sick and one dead. In this case the business of water has met the business of dairy farming (the most likely source of the contamination) and it’s horrifyingly fascinating watching vested interests trying to talk away a major public health crisis.

      1. Sadly yes. I’ve noticed particularly in the last few years that the mainstream media helps to frame “news” in such a way that any debate only occurs about details. The ideology underlying privatization, etc is accepted as reality. Sigh.

    1. I am with you on this Su. It is horrifying. And, as a minor grumble, it vexes me enormously that ordinary folk must now go through the hoops of health and safety regulations just to sell home made goods at local stalls. They must pay for licences and certificates; they must pay rates to councils as well, and yet our Councils can’t always guarantee us that the water we want to use for home production won’t actually make us sick.

      1. That’s not a minor grumble really. In our casualised economy, selling home-made goods is an important source of income for many, and you’re right — individuals have huge compliance costs, and larger businesses and agencies shirk responsibility.

      2. You’ve both raised very important points here. It comes to the heart of it – how individuals are served by the state – a state that both wants to control ordinary citizens, but at the same time sell off the common good to the private sector. They compound the wrong by telling us it’s for our own good and that we’ll get a better deal from private providers.Yet the clue is in the word ‘private’. Commercial interest is bound to serve its own interests first and foremost otherwise it would not be a commercial company. What a tangled webby world we are living in.

  8. Great images for the challenge, Tish. You make very valid points, and I agree with Ark’s sinister little ditty, and your “sleepwalking through our lives” comment. We’re all pawns in a game, for sure.

  9. We live in power generating central, but so far, have managed to escape the fracking. Considering the delicacy of the aquifer, fracking could destroy our water supply completely … not to mention awaken old earthquake faults. But you know, as long as someone stands to profit, there will be people doing whatever they can to yank that money out of the earth and damn the costs.

    1. Yep. You’re right. But we still seem to be surprised when it doesn’t act in our best interests. All private enterprise is bound to act in its own interests first. It’s the deal.

  10. Indeed! Love the mood of these images. But I totally agree that we have surrendered our power for power to corporations who are focused on short term gains rather than long term sustainability. On Amandla, we use solar panels and a wind generator to keep our batteries charged most of the time. But when there is no wind / sun, we use diesel fuel and an engine to keep us going.

    1. There is ever a compromise to be made when it comes to alternative power sources, and solar and wind don’t always cut it if you haven’t the means to store a lot of power. I would love to go off grid. At least I THINK I would. There’s the rub though 🙂

      1. I have loved my experience of living ‘further off the grid’ than in my previous lives in NYC and Chicago. Still, there are somedays that I would love to be fully plugged into that grid 🙂

  11. Oh dear me, that’s a scary thought! I’d better switch off my laptop this instant, Tish! Not really being frivolous, and look at the responses you’ve provoked. 🙂

      1. Gosh. You’ve introduced me to a whole new concept here. Soft power – now I’ve got the gist, I think it’s wider ranging than the article link suggests. Instantly makes me think of social media actually, and how teens feel pressed to perform/stay current/be attention grabbing on instagram etc. But you are so right about power and the many forms it assumes; it’s often hard to keep rooted in one’s own power. Thank you for leading me down this very interesting avenue.

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