By Gary Hartley

Sitting beside me at EST HQ is Bianca, a woman who takes photos of French electricity pylons while on holiday.

As part of larger homage, she describes our continental cousins’ attempts as “like an army of aliens striding across the French plains” (a good thing) and contemptuously derides Britain’s pale attempt at combining energy supply and art.

She’s not the only one who gets enthused, apparently – and indeed, it seems Britain is closer than ever than following the French stylistic lead.

We’ve talked on here about the National Grid’s attempt to inject some poise into the pylon with a design competition – and now, they’re down to six of the best. Pylon-spotters everywhere must be salivating.

There’s a minimalist spike-approach, one described as a flower that probably looks slightly more like a praying mantis, a giant catapult/ man doing semaphore and one for the windsurfing fans.

For those London-based enthusiasts, there’s an opportunity to get up close and personal with scale models of the six shortlisted pylons at the V&A Museum. For the rest, well you can have your say on the competition site until 5 October, when the big shots of the energy and design world reconvene to pick their preferred.

Amongst the small print is the news that the finest structure will not necessarily ever become reality. However, the fact that stage two of the process for the six left in the running has involved in-depth exploration of the viability of their design with industry experts does suggest a certain intent – and with more pylons and cabling certainly needed as our creaking energy infrastructure is replenished over the next few years, calls for a bit of aesthetics beside the practicalities probably shouldn’t be falling on deaf ears.

So get out your pylon-spotting notebooks, and join Bianca in eager anticipation for the first sleek newby on the horizon – alien armies not guaranteed.