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Ecotality Sues To Stop Proposed NRG Charging-Station Deal With CA

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2011 Nissan Leaf plugged into an EVgo quick-charging station, Texas

2011 Nissan Leaf plugged into an EVgo quick-charging station, Texas

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Seven weeks ago, we told you about the March deal reached among NRG Energy, the state of California, and the state's Public Utility Commission that would install $100 million of electric-car charging stations in the state.

At the time, we noted reservations from insiders who questioned certain provisions of the deal.

Last Friday, the other shoe dropped.

Charging-station provider Ecotality, which operates the Blink network of charging stations, has filed suit to block implementation of that agreement.

Ecotality charges that the agreement 'punishes' NRG for overcharging California ratepayers by requiring the company to build out its EVgo network in California--meaning the 'punishment' is a business investment in a presumably profit-making entity.

The lawsuit reads:

Such 'punishment' is equivalent to a motorist settling his speeding citation by simply being required to buy a faster car, subsidized by the public.

It also notes:

The agreement, purportedly entered into to settle claims by the PUC on behalf of the California ratepayers for price gouging during the California energy crisis, transfers monies that should be refunded to California ratepayers to NRG, the entity now in ownership and control of the Dynegy wrongdoers.

The lawsuit was first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

In a later conference call covered by Earth2Tech, Ecotality executive expanded on their position, saying:

We are looking to stop an illegal giveaway that would create a monopoly over electric vehicle charging in California. They are illegally trying to give away a monopoly to an out of state company.

and

The NRG deal was consulted behind closed doors and no one in the industry was consulted about it. The deal gives them a huge advantage over others that are investing investor money, not settlement money.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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The settlement has been criticized by some (not all) electric-car advocates for giving NRG's EVgo network exclusive 18-month rights to install its own charging stations at the sites it "makes ready" under the terms of the agreement.

Pike Research discussed this and other criticisms in a Q+A with Arun Banskota, president of NRG Energy’s EV Services division. For that discussion, see the Pike Research posting from May 1.

Regrettably, it appears this dispute has some chance of becoming a long, drawn-out battle over core issues of crime and punishment, equal access for business, funding sources for car-charging infrastructure, and the influence of large energy companies on public policy.

What do you think? Should the proposed deal go forward for the good of all Californians, especially electric-car drivers? Is it an inappropriate use of funds that should more properly go to the ratepayers who were overcharged? Or should the deal be accepted with modifications?

Read up on the details, using this article's links, then leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Comments (4)
  1. I hate deals that mix things up like this.

    There should be one deal for creating a financial penalty for NRG and then a second deal for putting in charging stations (if they are needed).
     
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  2. "an illegal giveaway that would create a monopoly over electric vehicle charging in California"

    "The NRG deal was consulted behind closed doors"

    "the influence of large energy companies on public policy"

    Ecotality is going about this all wrong by using the courts. In a state where the government interferes in every aspect of the economy, the best way to get things done or resolved is to buy off (bribe) the meddling politicians. Fight fire with fire, so to speak.
     
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  3. So Ecotality, with your $100m+ of government funding, where are your Level-3 chargers? Where's the network of Level-2 chargers you said you'd have in place a year ago in San Diego. You had your chance,... using MY money.
     
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  4. This is just another example how stupid California Government is... They are incapable of handling any of the "regulatory" stuff right. Want to know why? 1. They lack the incentives of doing it for the sake of taxpayers. 2. They are made up by incompetent people. I know plenty of people who "wouldn't make it in the private industry" are doing just fine by working for the state of California...
     
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