The Last Train to the Rhondda

Many thanks to the many of you who have read and commented on our blog so far. Please feel free to offer up your thoughts to me by email at In a later post I will collect together all the responses and thoughts to provide some balance, or reinforcement of our thoughts.

This is an exciting time in the energy market, with incumbents weighed down by heavy debts, bad decisions, and the heavy cost of pension burdens from previous generations. This makes innovation, and what has been called creative destruction imminent in my view. As mentioned previously, embracing these changes and accelerating them seems to me the sensible option (rather than fighting and trying to stick with what we know – and know doesn’t work).

A close friend of mine was recounting to me his story of his journey, post Rugby World Cup victory of Wales over England from Cardiff (the game was in Twickenham of course), on what he described as the ‘Last train to the Rhondda’. The scene he described was poetic in the sense that despite being packed with drunken (Welsh) men it was at complete peace, with every man throughout the train singing in perfect harmony. These are glorious moments when people come together, and this community spirit is what we want to harvest.

The last train to the Rhondda is a slightly tenuous link, but at ChargeSync we want to create a community of battery devices which cooperate in harmony, responding to a central ‘conductor’ (in a musical sense, not electrical). Our idea is simple, and will provide flexibility at the point of use cheaply and rapidly. This solution is what I describe as a “plus grid” solution. Our aim is to use our batteries to aid the grid in times of peak stress (reducing the reliance on diesel generation), and aid the grid during times of oversupply, when our batteries will charge for use later. This idea moves energy from peak times to off peak, and hence reduces the need to build new wires, and hence reduces the overall cost to the country of running the network. By placing the batteries in the home, at point of use we are able to consume during off peak hours, and reduce consumption in the peak. Batteries located at the higher voltage grid (eg next to a nuclear power station) will not be able to do this, and hence will not be cost effective for many years to come (or ever if batteries are built on the LV-Low Voltage- grid). Putting batteries next to LV substations could be another solution, but then there is an issue of ownership. Who will pay for the build? Whose bill will it effect? At least with home batteries it’s clear that if you make the investment then your bill should be reduced.

Comparing and contrasting this with other battery solutions out there in the market place, the main alternative I see is the ‘off grid’ model. This has an appeal to those who don’t want to operate in the efficient community model (or National Grid) as we’ve done for many years. Perhaps they are so well off that building an unnecessarily large volume of battery capacity in their home is not a worry for them, or perhaps they just like the idea of showing people all their solar panels. This is a reality which isn’t affordable for most people, and actually acts to increase the costs for everyone else on the grid (the grid has to provide support to off grid users for times they cannot generate, and these costs are currently borne by those who are not off grid). Connection charges for ‘off grid’ households are the answer. And let’s make them big enough to help the rest of the market pay for their plus grid batteries.

So the question is, how do you want to travel home from the big match (of life??)? The last train to the Rhondda? Or are you going to take the lonely taxi from Twickenham?