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Summary:

Electric car charging company Ecotality has filed a lawsuit against California regulators to attempt to halt a deal that includes power company NRG investing $120 million into building an electric car charging network in California, reports the San Jose Mercury News, and we’ve confirmed with Ecotality.

NRG Energy's eVgo Network at a Best Buy

NRG Energy’s eVgo Network at a Best Buy

Electric car charging company Ecotality has filed a lawsuit against California regulators to attempt to halt a deal that includes power company NRG investing around $100 million into building an electric car charging network in California, reports the San Jose Mercury News, and we’ve confirmed with Ecotality. There were a lot of angry people in the electric vehicle charging community after the NRG deal was announced, and I was wondering if someone was going to sue.

Here’s the back story: in March California Governor Jerry Brown, and California’s utility regulator, announced that a decade-old claim with a partner of NRG Energy, Dynegy, over power contracts during the state’s energy crisis, would turn into a $120 million settlement fund to invest in building out an electric car charging network in California. One hundred million dollars of the fund would be allocated for installing 200 public fast-charging stations, and 10,000 plug-in units at 1,000 locations across the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, L.A. and San Diego County. The remaining $20 million of the fund will go to “ratepayer relief,” or reducing consumer energy bills.

Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, it does to NRG’s competitors that don’t see why the power company is settling a claim by essentially winning a $100 million investment deal.

Dynegy had an Enron-style energy trading platform and was one of the companies that was involved in California’s energy crisis. A subsidiary of Dynegy, was a co-owner with NRG of power generating plants, which are currently owned by NRG in California and “NRG assumed full responsibility for resolving this matter in 2006 when NRG acquired Dynegy’s 50 percent interest in the assets.”

Ecotality is holding a call shortly to discuss their position, so I’ll update this post when I know more.

Ecotality execs said on the call:

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. Our motion to stop this in April was dismissed. We’re asking the court to review this deal under a transparent process. We believe we have a compelling position on this. We hope that we will get the necessary support on this from the industry.

and

Ecotality is focused on California. We’re putting out the charger infrastructure already. 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. They can literally saturate the market and cherry pick the best real estate.

Ecotality also says it has lost three locations for DC fast chargers and have seen stalls on many more.

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  1. Ecotality would know a little something about legal problems. Ecotality is currently under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Ecotality is using tax-payer money to build charging stations. NRG Energy is using its own money (no tax-payer subsidizes) to build charging stations (which they’ve already shown to have successfully done in Texas). Which sounds better there? Ecotality is already WELL behind their own goals of building charging stations. Even if there wasn’t this settlement, there is a chance Ecotality might be bankrupt soon. Ecotality is not in good financial shape. Not good at all. If you want these charging stations built, that’s not going to happen with Ecotality. This settlement is the best way to make it happen.

  2. Henry Hebert Saturday, May 26, 2012

    Out of state company? (Ecotality execs quote.) I’m not too familiar with the NRG Energy, but I know they have a ton of solar power plants all over California. Maybe their headquarters are in another state (I guess), but they might as well be a California company with all of the solar power plants they have in this state.

    Not really sure why it matters if they are out of state or not to begin with. The jobs created to install the charging stations will still be in California. The charging stations will be located be in California (of course). I guessing the charging station units themselves might be manufactured in California as well. Taxes on all of this will be given to California. So I’m not sure why it matters whether the company itself might be headquartered outside of California. I can understand “Buy American”, but “Buy Californian”? That’s getting a bit specific. Next it will be “Buy San Diegan” or whatever.

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