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Running an Aga range cooker on electricity; Some myths dispelled

Over the next 50 years our challenge in the UK is to electrify everything. We all want to live modern lives full of light and warmth. The only way to do this sustainably is to power all the things that make life comfortable, pleasurable and fun with low carbon power. What are some of the objections that get raised when this vision is presented? We bust a few myths below! 

Myth... The electricity grid is not being upgraded to cope with the extra demand for electricity from electric cars, Aga range cookers and heat pumps. 

In 2002 the UK used 406TWh of electricity, in 2022 that number was 321TWH (source). That is a 21% decrease! This was driven by the increasing energy efficiency of things like lightbulbs and household appliances. There is LOTS of room to grow our usage of electricity using the cables and pylons etc that are still there! On top of this refining oil into petrol and diesel uses a lot of electricity which won't be needed anymore (source).

Oh and between 2022-2026 National Grid will invest ~£16 billion in the UK to improve and upgrade our electricity supply by 2026!

Myth... Renewable power is intermittent so cannot be relied upon and we are wasting money as have to retain gas power plants as backups.

This one is true, but won't be forever! We do still need gas to power us through windless and overcast days. In the long run this will be solved by massive overcapacity in wind and solar, more storage, our own nuclear power and enormous cables bringing us Norwegian hydropower, French nuclear and Moroccan solar. For now we pay more, in the long run we'll have an abundance of cheap renewable power.

One day soon Moroccan sunshine imported into the UK will mean tomatoes grown in December in Scotland. 

Myth... We look greener with our low carbon electricity but are simply allowing other people to produce for us and 'hiding' our carbon emissions overseas.

It's true we import a lot of things now that previously would have been made at home, thats good in most cases as we have better jobs now that mass producing socks or electricity cabling. This often leads to the accusation that our 'real' greenhouse gas emissions are much higher than we claim. Since 1990 though we have consumption based emissions figures that 'add back' the emissions of socks or cables made abroad for us and 'consumed' here in the UK. Since 1990 our consumption based emissions have fallen 45% (source). Fantastic!


Myth... Power cuts make relying on an electric Aga range cooker too risky

Thankfully the UK electricity grid is VERY reliable and getting better all the time! In 2010, not that long ago!, the average customer could expect just over an hour a year with no power at home. In 2019/20 that was halved to just under 30mins (source). If a Blake & Bull remanufactured electric Aga range cooker, on and at temperature, had a power cut for 30mins it would be back to full temperature about 10 minutes later! To be fair on this one you might not be an 'average' UK electricity consumer. If you are in the highlands of Scotland or the top of a windy valley in Wales staying on oil (with manual oil valve!) might be a good plan if you can stomach the carbon emissions and local air pollution! 

Myth... Running an Aga range cooker, or anything else, on electricity just shifts emissions to the power station and saves no carbon. 

40% of UK electricity is from low carbon sources and that percentage is getting higher every year - using electricity from the grid is massively better than burning oil or gas at home! By 2030 the target is that the UK grid be carbon emissions free. I suspect we'll miss that target but it will happen soon after I am sure!  

Matthew Bates

Matthew Bates

Matthew is from a farming family near Bath and a graduate of King's College London who decided not to follow the 'standard' path into banking or the law. He has been working with these fabulous cookers in some form or another since 2003. Matthew runs Blake and Bull from beautiful Bradford on Avon, near Bath. Alf the golden retriever makes sure the working day finishes at 6pm sharp - dog walk time!