London's fracking future is lit up by its electric past



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The image of a series of oil and gas rigs dotted all over London - see Boris Johnson's plans to drill - might feel freaky, but we're no strangers to power-production plants in these parts.

Two of our most memorable buildings - Battersea Power Station and the Tate Modern (the former Bankside Power Station) - have loomed over London for decades, bricky reminders of the city's industrial past.

In their day, together with older sister Deptford Power Station, the south London power stations were at the forefront of electricity and engineering technology. When Deptford was switched on in 1891, it was the world's biggest power station; at its opening in 1933, Battersea was the world's most efficient.

They were vociferously opposed by many, especially those with business in plummier areas across the river - Chelsea, The City - who didn't see why their rising demand for electricity should compromise their sight-lines. Now their grandchildren queue for the Tate Modern and pre-order swanky flats in the Battersea redevelopment.

One day in the 21st century, when they've sorted out perpetual motion, fracking rigs could achieve a similar fondly-regarded status, seen as an army of silent watchmen who kept the lights on when energy was short and anyway, maybe it's right that London should produce some of its own power instead of cadging volts off the Russians and the Scots.