California judge throws out ECOtality lawsuit against Public Utility Commission

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A California appeals judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by EV charging station provider ECOtality against the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). ECOtality was trying to stop the CPUC from funding a charging network set up by competitor EVgo. It’s bad news for ECOtality, but is it good news for California EV drivers? Let’s recap the story of the California charging war.

Back in March, EVgo’s parent company, NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), made a deal with the CPUC to invest $100 million over the next four years to build an EV charging network. The agreement resolved a decade-old dispute between the state and a related company that was involved in the famous Enron debacle.

The deal calls for EVgo to install 200 DC fast charging stations, as well as the electrical infrastructure to support 10,000 future Level 2 charging stations. EVgo will install the wiring for these “make ready” sites, and will have the exclusive right to install charging stations for 18 months. A pretty good deal for California’s EV industry, and a fantastic deal for EVgo, which is guaranteed a chunk of the charging business in the world’s largest EV market.

To competitor ECOtality, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECTY), it smelled like a sweetheart deal, and the company filed a lawsuit in May seeking to kill the agreement. ECOtality alleged that the pact would give the out-of-state company a monopoly, and was negotiated with no public input. “This so-called ‘punishment’ is like a restaurant failing a health inspection then being given an exclusive franchise to open and operate every restaurant in the city, subsidized by public funds,” said ECOtality CEO Jonathan Read (Ecotality has also benefitted from government support – it received $115 million in grants from the DOE to help build the EV Project charging network).

After the judge’s ruling, ECOtality said in a 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.”