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ECOtality rebuffed in attempt to block eVgo's entrance to California charging station market

ECOtality's lawsuit has been denied in an attemot to block a settlement between NRG and the Public Utilities Commission that is slated to result in over 10,000 electric car charging stations being built in California.

Back in March 2012 a deal was reached between the State of California and NRG Energy that will cause NRG's subsidiary, eVgo, to build a large charging station network in California. The deal settled a long-standing lawsuit between California and two subsidiaries of NRG related to the California Energy Crisis over 10 years ago. In May, ECOtality filed a lawsuit seeking to block the settlement launching a legal battle between ECOtality, the California Public Utilities Commission and NRG Energy that has run in parallel with proceedings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over approval of the settlement. Today, the California First District Court of Appeals today denied ECOtality's motion, ending their attempt to derail the settlement.

For details concerning the settlement and lawsuit see our previous coverage:- California settles energy crisis lawsuit, enabling NRG to build electric car charging network; NRG reaching out to quell concerns in electric car charging network deal with California; California's electric car charging deal with NRG clouded with controversy; ECOtality seeks to block NRG's electric car charging network in California; NRG's electric car charging network creating new jobs in California; and NRG fires back over ECOtality's lawsuit seeking to kill settlement with PUC

The backdrop to the settlement was the California Energy Crisis which was perpetrated by unscrupulous energy traders such as Enron. In the wake of that Crisis several companies went out of business, and Grey Davis was forced out as Governor to be replaced by the Governator. NRG had purchased two subsidiaries of Dynegy, thus inheriting the culpability of those subsidiaries for their role in the crisis. NRG and California had already settled part of the claims against the subsidiaries. The settlement announced in April covers the "long term contracts" issue, and in return for settling the case NRG has committed itself to building an electric car charging station network in California of over 10,000 stations.

This network is to be built by NRG's subsidiary eVgo and consist of 200 "Freedom Stations" which will contain two, or more, fast charging stations, and 1000 or more "Make Ready" sites that will have wiring for 10,000 or more level 2 charging stations. The Make Ready's are to be installed at businesses, multi-unit dwellings or other sites of public interest such as shopping centers.

ECOtality sought to block the settlement on several grounds. These can be summed up in three claims by ECOtality: that the Settlement uses ratepayer funds to give one company (NRG/eVgo) a preferential position over other electric car charging network providers; that the Settlement will significantly harm development of future electric car charging infrastructure; that the CPUC had no authority to make the settlement.

NRG and the CPUC were able to respond on every count and in the end Judge Kline denied ECOtality's petition. They countered that the CPUC had every bit of authority, and that ECOtality had failed to prove the settlement violated state law; that the money was not a diversion of ratepayer funds; that the CPUC had reached similar agreements in the past where the repayment was in the form of a business building a large project that served California's common good; that the settlement gave no preferential position for eVgo; that ECOtality also receives government subsidies for The EV Project; and that contrary to ECOtality's assertions, the settlement will enhance future competition in the electric car charging station market.

An ECOtality spokesperson provided this statement: "While we are disappointed and disagree with the outcome of this case, we continue to see great opportunity for ECOtality and the whole of the electric vehicle industry in California. We look forward to working with our competitors and regulatory bodies to make sure California, our home, remains at the forefront of clean energy."

An NRG spokesperson provided this statement: "We are very pleased with the court's action and look forward to finishing the approval process with FERC. The infrastructure envisioned by the state of California will greatly enhance EV charging in the state and encourage far greater EV adoption. We strongly believe this agreement is the best route to bring the benefits of electric vehicle fast charging network to a diverse array of communities throughout the state."

FERC approval of the settlement is the remaining action required before eVgo can begin building its charging station network in California. The FERC action has continued in parallel with the lawsuit discussed above. It's known that eVgo has staffed up in California and is already making preparations.