Until 1948, the electricity supply in Bristol, as in many towns, was run as a council department, with its own power stations at Temple Back, Avonbank and Portishead. In that year it was effectively confiscated by the London regime, without payment of full compensation, only to be sold on in 1990 as part of South Western Electricity, which is now owned by the French Government.
Now it emerges that Bristol is one of a group of cities looking to re-enter the energy market, working alongside the Bristol-based Ovo Energy, one of the smaller suppliers offering an alternative to the Big Six. This is precisely what is needed in a world where so many alternatives to shameless profiteering have been closed off by the totalitarian liberals who dominate all three main London parties.
Does it go far enough? Not yet. Locally-managed power can be a real boost to more sustainable cities, integrated with urban heat networks, micro-renewables, smart metering and energy-from-waste. And certainly not forgetting everything that needs doing to reduce demand through improved energy saving. City and borough councils are as well placed today as in the 19th century to organise a more efficient energy distribution system. The reason they got involved in securing local monopolies – in electricity, gas, trams, water, and even telephones – was because all these things involve digging up the streets; a little co-ordination avoids a great deal of inconvenience. As we move inevitably towards an energy-poor economy, a well thought out strategy for making the most of what we have will make the difference between those cities that have a future and those that don’t.