Fed Greenlights Biggest Electric Vehicle Charging Network

California drivers will soon be able to easily find stations to quickly charge their electric vehicles.

The federal government approved a settlement between NRG Energy and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), clearing the way for a $100 million electric vehicle charging infrastructure that will stretch from San Francisco to San Diego.

NRG’s deal with CPUC lays to rest a decade-old dispute involving a subsidiary of Dynergy, a utility that was one of several power companies that overcharged California rate-payers during the state’s energy crisis.

NRG inherited the liability for the resolution in 2006 when it acquired 50% of Dynergy’s assets. The settlement approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) calls for NRG to pay $20 million for rate-payer relief and most importantly, to invest $100 million in an EV charging network across California.

The agreement paves the way for NRG’s eVgo subsidiary to install at least 200 public fast-charging EV stations in retail locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County.

The first Freedom Station sites should be active in early 2013, and rest will be installed over the next four years, creating more than 1,500 green jobs and adding $185 million to the economy.

Drivers will be charged a fee to use eVgo Freedom Stations, which will allow them to add 50 miles of range in as little as 15 minutes.

At least 20% of the fast-charging stations will be located in low-income and mixed-income housing areas.

In addition, eVgo will install wiring for at least 10,000 additional charging stations in offices, multifamily communities, schools and hospitals.

NRG will also spend $5 million to collaborate with California researchers on demonstration projects for future charging technology and $4 million to support low-income car-sharing, workforce training and other opportunities related to the electric vehicle industry.

 “This approval enables one of the most visionary ‘public-private partnerships’ ever conceived to move forward; enabling NRG to begin bringing the benefits of a comprehensive EV fast charging network to the largest population centers in California,” says David Crane, NRG Energy CEO. “This network will open the door for more California drivers to enjoy the enormous benefits of EV ownership.”

This is the first privately funded, comprehensive electric vehicle charging system in the country. The eVgo network will make it possible for EV owners to avoid the upfront cost of installing a fast-charger at home, because they’ll be widely available across the state at retail and employer locations and along highways. Subscribers pay a monthly fee in exchange for  unlimited charging.

Based in Princeton, NJ, NRG is mostly a fossil fuel supplier, but is becoming very active in solar, wind and EV charging station development. It’s working with AeroVironment on a charging infrastructure in Texas.

Electric vehicle charging companies are focusing a lot of attention on California, where 25% of all EV sales are expected through 2020. 

The state also hosts solar-powered "superchargers" installed by Tesla.

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