NRG’s California Fast-Charging Network Progressing Slower Than Expected

By · November 22, 2013

eVgo Freedom Station

Last year, California entered into a settlement agreement with the utility NRG to install more than 10,000 electric vehicle charging stations statewide, including at least 200 fast-charging “Freedom Stations.”

The $90.5 million investment on the part of the utility would serve as payment for a settlement involving a company that had defrauded Californians out of millions of dollars in energy costs and had later been acquired by NRG. Instead of collecting a cash settlement, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) opted to put the company to work building up the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure, allowing NRG to maintain ownership and collect fees from the stations after they have been installed.

More than a year later though, installation of the network is lagging behind schedule. According to previous announcements, NRG was to have completed work on 40 fast-chargers by December 5, 2013. To date, just 110 total stations and just seven fast-chargers are operational.

An Associated Press report yesterday highlighted NRG’s difficulties in keeping pace with the agreement, most of which revolve around negotiations with property owners and commercial tenants at proposed sites. In an interview with PluginCars.com, eVgo's vice president of California business development, Terry O'Day, said that finalizing agreements with both landlords and businesses adjacent to the charge sites has taken longer than expected. “Getting this network up as soon as possible is our first priority, but it isn’t necessarily theirs,” he explained.

O’Day said that the December 5 target date wasn’t a mandatory term of the CPUC agreement, but rather an expected timeline. Furthermore, he said that NRG is either entering the permitting process or under construction on all 40 of the charge stations it had promised, with all of the landlord and commercial agreements now in place.

As for the 10,000 residential and workplace Level 2 charging stations promised in the CPUC deal, O’Day says that the 110 it has completed to date is right on schedule, and that eVgo has completed more than 300 site inspections for additional installations. When I asked if NRG is in position to hit all of its future target dates for the build-up he replied, “Definitely.”

The deadline to complete construction of all 200 Freedom Stations in the network is 2016. Until then, NRG doesn’t have any hard deadlines meet under the terms of the agreement, though it says it will have completed another 15 stations—for a total of 22—by March.

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