California EV Charging Deal Aims At The Masses

For the non-1 percenters in California able to afford an electric car, the chances of finding a place to charge it should improve in the years ahead. That’s because a revised settlement between California regulators and NRG Energy encourages the company to build more charging infrastructure accessible to low- and middle-income people, and requires NRG to keep its network of electric vehicle charging stations open to network nonsubscribers for at least five years.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission said the new $100 million deal, filed for approval with federal authorities, would put 20 percent of 200 new fast-charging stations, capable of adding 50 miles of range to an electric car in less than 15 minutes, in low income areas in the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles basin and San Diego County.

california NRG energy settlement

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The agreement [PDF] is intended to settle a claim that Dynegy Energy overcharged the state for power back in 2001. NRG acquired Dynegy’s California assets in 2006, putting it on the hook for the state’s claim.

NRG and the state had announced a deal last month, but not long afterward it ran into criticism that the state was in effect giving NRG a leg up on building a subscription-based EV charging network in the state. NRG is a big player in large solar projects, but the company has been placing bets on the EV-charging front as well, backing the eVgo network in Texas as well as a vehicle-to-grid power project based on technology developed at the University of Delaware.

“This is simply a privatized network that, with the blessing of the state, will likely cause more harm than good in the long run,” Chelsea Sexton, an EV marketing expert and consumer advocate, told the San Jose Mercury News earlier this month in describing the initial settlement.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.