Peter Rhodes on electric hills, tearful jabs and our sudden pride in Britain's amazing boffins

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Power in them hills
Power in them hills

Hydro-electricity is one of the greenest, cleanest forms of energy but has one big drawback. You need mountains. Without soaring hills and deep valleys there is nowhere to build a dam for the billions of gallons of water needed to spin the turbines. Until now.

Reports this week describe a new process for turning hundreds of hills across the UK into renewable-energy “batteries” with reservoirs and power systems buried underground, driven not by water but by a special liquid twice as dense as water. The new power plants would be barely visible yet could provide half the renewable energy we need over the coming decade.

At any other time, we might barely notice such a techno-geeky news item. But one side-effect of the pandemic is ordinary folk suddenly becoming aware of, and proud of, Britain's massive – and usually unsung - scientific brainpower.

We have seen our medical labs produce in one year a range of vaccines that would normally take ten years. Science and technology, so often overshadowed by our media and arts-obsessed culture, is becoming a national treasure. If our boffins can beat a pandemic, is there anything they cannot do – including turning hills into batteries?

“It's so heartwarming. Some of them cry, they're so emotional” reports a councillor in Staffordshire after seeing a local vaccination centre in action. I wrote on Tuesday of the experience having “an almost spiritual element.” One reader admits she had a lump in her throat: “It felt like making history, being part of something bigger, something global.” Another reader declares: “It was actually quite an emotional moment, maybe it is the release of tension and the promise of hope after such an uncertain year.”

Why are we not aware of this emotion? Probably because TV crews and their news editors are utterly obsessed with images of needles going into flesh. If they raised their sights from the jab in the arm to the teardrop on the cheek, they would discover a much bigger story.

So if you're still awaiting your jab, be warned. It may be utterly painless but it could still make you blub.

As a flu-injection refusenik, I hadn't had any sort of injection since my days in the Territorial Army. In the 1970s and 1980s, hundreds of thousands of us in the armed forces had an annual TABT jab to protect us from tetanus, typhoid and paratyphoid A and B. I never heard of TABT in civilian life and I have no idea whether it is still rattling around in our bodies, or whether it has the slightest effect on pandemics. Does anybody?

Kay Burley is about one-third of the way through her six-month suspension from Sky News, imposed for breaking lockdown rules. She followed that disgrace by taking a safari holiday in South Africa. My readers are a fair barometer of public concerns and, so far, none of them claims to be missing her.

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