With the race to become the nation’s green technology leader underway, it’s only natural that the competition can and will get fierce. Across the country local governments are stepping up in an attempt to clean up their cities and the environment. With electric, eco-friendly vehicles growing in popularity, many state energy regulators find themselves immersed in deals to bring electric charging stations to their communities – a lucrative deal for the chosen vendor – and one that California’s, Ecotality, wants to be a part of.

Ecotality is a Bay Area clean technology firm who specializes in the development and construction of electric charging stations. Recently, the LA Times revealed that Ecotality has issued a lawsuit against state energy regulators, accusing them of granting an out-of-state power supplier a monopoly over EV charging stations in California. The suit, in detail, alleges that the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) made an illegal agreement with the Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. which gives the company “18 months of exclusive rights to operate charging stations in certain locations” including the development of a network of more than 10,000 fast-charging plug-in stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego.

Lawsuits stemming from energy disputes are not a foreign concept. In this particular case, NRG’s agreement with the PUC is based off a decade-old lawsuit by California against Dynegy Inc, a Houston energy company that allegedly overcharged the state for electricity in 2000 and 2001 at the time of the energy crisis. According to Gov. Jerry Brown, the NRG deal was settled under the bringing NRG plug-in stations to these areas will, “clean out air and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” Although this indeed would help the never-ending battle between today’s fuel use and the toll it takes on the environment, it does not explain why only NRG has precedence over other energy companies.

NRG is disputing claims that they are attempting to control EV charging stations in California, and are stressing that the agreement between themselves and PUC does not in any way prevent other electric vehicle charging companies from installing their own stations in those areas. However, Jonathon Read, Ecotality Chief Executive, feels that this situation “could literally saturate the marketplace.”

As the dispute carries on, it is unclear who will end up on top of this energy battle. One thing is for sure, as consumers continue to demand better, cleaner forms of energy competition for market control will only escalate.

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