Life Without Electricity
An Editor’s Room, Melbourne Punch vol. I, p. 69, 1855 via State Library Victoria

With the changing of the seasons, the recent closure of our largest coal-fired power station, and my increasingly unreliable electricity supply, I’ve been considering modern life without electricity delivered to the house.

Mind you I’ve been reading The Great Depression: A Diary (affiliate link) as well, so it’s been a lot about how life has changed.

In theory, here in Victoria, utilities are essential services. Your water cannot be cut off, though your supplier can reduce the flow. Gas and electricity cannot be cut off without a bill, a reminder and a warning first. Your supplier has to enter into negotiations with you about paying what you can afford. And as South Australians know, the weather often has its own ideas about what’s essential.

But we’re not getting into politics today.

Life Without Electricity Supply

I’ve been imagining what modern life might be like without electricity supplied to the house.

After getting out of bed, blundering to the kitchen, and lighting a candle, the next thing is to light the stove for:

  1. warmth
  2. coffee

Without electricity, I don’t have a fridge though I may have a cool safe with a little milk left from yesterday. Or maybe I drink my coffee black now.

I would have to shop every day for fresh food. I used to do that on my way home from work in London, but from here, if I miss the bus, it’s a long walk to the supermarket.

Without electricity, there’s no computer, so my writing and editing would be done by hand. I’d probably have to go into an office in the City to do it.

Even worse, no dishwasher, clothes washer or vacuum cleaner!!! And probably no time for television when I got home from work anyway.

Just as well I’d be needing an early night. Hopefully, I banked the fire properly this time.

But really…

You could get by with a variety of individual appliances powered by a range of fossil fuels (e.g., liquid natural gas, propane, and kerosene to name a few). However, they don’t power the house, and I doubt the wisdom of having them in the house if not vented to the outside.

Realistically, if there were no electricity supply to the house, you would investigate other sources of power – it’s what many people are doing anyway with electricity prices skyrocketing.

Theoretically, the Victorian legislation permits installation of solar, wind, hydro and biomass generators for domestic use, subject to planning permissions. And in some cases building and works approvals as well. And this means that in some locations your neighbours could scupper your power generation plans.

I haven’t found a specific mention of fuel cell technologies, but these are in the order of gas appliances. They are installed and operate like gas water heaters, drawing from existing gas supply. Except instead of heating water, they generate electricity. With the price of gas being what it is, that’s not a viable option any longer anyway. Maybe in a few years, if the government legislates to preserve local gas supplies for the domestic market.

Which brings me back to a life without electricity.

When it was a potentially death-defying, new, and exciting thing, electricity was enormously expensive. The most common installation was a single light in the main room. Which leads to the question, if you could only afford to keep one electric thing, what would it be?


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