Ecotality sues to stop NRG electric charging network in California

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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