Energy Firm NRG's Business Reset: Will It Affect Electric-Car Charging Network?


NRG eVgo electric-car charging station

NRG eVgo electric-car charging station

NRG Energy is a large electric utility company, but it also operates solar and electric-car charging businesses.

Its eVgo charging network already claims to have more operational DC fast-charging stations than any other network in the U.S.

But now the charging network is getting caught up in a bit of corporate reshuffling.

DON'T MISS: NRG eVgo Electric-Car Fast Chargers Future-Proofed To 100 KW

On September 18, NRG announced a restructuring that transferred its electric-car charging and solar operations to a separate corporate entity called GreenCo, according to Navigant Research.

NRG's stock has fallen by one third this year, and with interest rates set to rise, pressure from investors reportedly forced the move.

In a webcast, NRG CEO David Crane said the parent company will provide GreenCo with a $150 million revolver through 2016.

Nissan Leaf at eVgo Freedom Station Daly City, California

Nissan Leaf at eVgo Freedom Station Daly City, California

"Now is neither the time to abandon GreenCo nor to transfer its full value to someone else," Crane said.

However, he said NRG planned to impose a "new higher level of financial rigor" on the separated entity, and that efforts are underway to find GreenCo a new strategic partner.

Navigant views losses related to the capital-intensive solar business as the main reason for NRG's reset.

ALSO SEE: As Solar Installations Soar, Utilities Confront Distributed Renewable Power

A blog post compares the current situation to that faced by telecoms in the 1990s, when cell networks were being built up.

Many companies couldn't stomach the costs of building up infrastructure, but those that could were rewarded with a very profitable business.

Similarly, companies today have to invest in solar infrastructure, and hope that it will prove profitable once in place.

Nissan Leaf electric car with eVgo quick charging station. [courtesy eVgo]

Nissan Leaf electric car with eVgo quick charging station. [courtesy eVgo]

However, utilities looking to get into the solar-generation business face competition from individuals installing their own solar panels, Navigant notes.

This form of "distributed generation" is already worrying utilities, some of which have attempted to smother it by lobbying lawmakers for restrictions.

MORE: NRG Now Has 120 Quick-Charging Stations Open In California

Predicting the success of solar is also complicated by the regional nature of power generation, and that fact that it is regulated at the state level, not the national level.

The future of solar will likely have a major impact on electric cars, whose overall carbon emissions decrease when renewable sources are used for charging.

And in a more immediate timeframe, it remains to be seen what impact NRG's restructuring will have on the eVgo charging network.

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