ECOtality alleges that the agreement amounts to handing NRG a monopoly over California’s charging market, and was negotiated behind closed doors, with no public input.
It sounded like a win-win agreement: California settled a decade-old lawsuit from the days of the Enron scandal, and as part of its penance, NRG, the successor to Dynegy Power Marketing, would build a network of EV charging stations for the Golden State’s citizens to use. What’s not to like? Plenty, for the other players in what’s shaping up to be a lucrative and competitive business.
On Friday, ECOtality, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECTY) filed legal documents seeking to halt implementation of the agreement. The company alleges that the agreement amounts to handing NRG a monopoly over California’s charging market, and was negotiated behind closed doors, 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. “This is an illegal giveaway, negotiated without public input, that will not only impede the development of the electric vehicle market in California and ultimately cost consumers more — but it also denies California rate-payers any refunds from the nearly $1 billion in overcharging that occurred during the energy crisis.”
In documents filed in support of ECOtality’s lawsuit, anti-trust expert C. Paul Wazzan said, “My review has identified features of the Agreement which I believe present the potential for serious anti-competitive impacts by enabling NRG to establish a dominant position in the California EVCS market by engaging in what is essentially a predatory scheme to capture the best geographic locations for their charging stations. The Agreement presents a substantial risk of creating a subsidized predatory scheme and conveyed first mover advantage.”
NRG spokesman, David Knox, maintains that the settlement benefits California's entire EV industry. "NRG is making a private investment to build an electric vehicle infrastructure that will encourage electric vehicle adoption across the state to benefit the state of California, the people of California and all the businesses that support the electric vehicle industry."