A battle is being fought in California over whether electric utility companies can own/deploy electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In the case of PG&E’s proposal, it has drawn huge amount of criticism and in late 2015 the CPUC forced PG&E to limit their plan while the Commission weighed whether PG&E should be allowed to proceed with their intended plan. Today must have been a deadline for filings in the matter because there’s been a flurry of filings in the matter. I don’t have time to digest all the filings – there’s about 10 so far, each of which are a dozen or more pages of legalese. I did find the filing from the “Electric Vehicle Charging Association” to be interesting, given some history especially concerning the settlement between the CPUC and NRG that brought eVgo to California.
Specifically – the EVCA says their members are willing to partner with utility companies to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure. But, the key argument in the EVCA filing is more than reminiscent of the argument made against the CPUC/NRG settlement that brought eVgo into California:
Under the PG&E proposal, EVCA’s members would face direct competition from a utility and risk being driven from one of the industry’s most important markets. This “one-step forward, two-steps backward” approach risks more harm to the state’s effort to transition to EV charging than benefit. EVCA agrees with California leaders and other stakeholders that there is a need for further support to deploy additional EV charging just as California is providing hundreds of millions of dollars to spur electric vehicle sales. However, the direct ownership framework advanced by PG&E can and must be restructured and narrowed so that its risks to competition are mitigated and so that the proposed program supports and complements — rather than displaces – nonutility EV charging infrastructure and services.
(See EVCA filing for details)
Back in 2012, there was a large announcement of a settlement between NRG and California over the finagling of electricity prices performed by various companies approx 15 years ago. That finagling cost California electricity ratepayers lots of money, and even drove Governor Gray Davis out of office. Some of the finagling was done by a pair of companies that NRG later bought. The method chosen by which NRG could repay California was for NRG to launch eVgo service in California, build a bunch of charging stations, and so forth. I did a lot of reporting on this at the time, and posted a summary on this blog.
The fight against this plan was led by Blink which at the time was owned by ECOTality. That was before ECOTality went out of business and sold Blink to the Car Charging Group, but I digress.
In their filings, Blink made more-or-less the same argument the EVCA makes above. That NRG, being a huge 800-pound-gorilla, would have the financial deep pockets to build out a massive charging network, dominate the California market, and squeeze out the little players. It’s interesting that ChargePoint declined to participate in Blink’s fight against the NRG settlement.
It is worth noting that the EVCA members include ABM, ChargePoint, Clean Fuel Connection, Cyber Switching, EV Connect, Envision Solar, EVgo, Plugless Power, Seawave Battery and Volta. Oh, look, notice that eVgo is a party to the fight against PG&E’s charging network plan, and is using the same argument that was used against eVgo.
Looking over that membership list we note that ChargePoint and eVgo are the most significant members. The other named companies are small players in the California EV Charging market. Therefore, we should interpret the EVCA filing as primarily representing ChargePoint and eVgo.
I’ll also note the fears expressed over NRG being an 800-pound-gorilla who’d crush the existing charging network operators has proved unfounded. NRG’s eVgo did not establish the feared presence in California, and ChargePoint seems to be doing very well. For example they’ve recently moved into a new headquarters building that’s much larger than their old digs.
The EVCA filing also notes that EVCA members are working with other utility companies on charging network infrastructure. For example, ChargePoint is partnering with KCP&L to build charging infrastructure around the Kansas City area. It’s not a matter of utility companies should not ever own charging stations. It’s that EVCA members say they want it happening under constraints that do not harm the existing charging network operators.
For completeness, here’s a link to the PG&E filing, which I haven’t reviewed: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Efile/G000/M166/K001/166001329.PDF
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