2011 Nissan Leaf plugged into an EVgo quick-charging station, TexasEnlarge Photo
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.
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 VoltEnlarge Photo
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.