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NRG Energy faults electric car charging station plan

A New Jersey energy company with plans to build the first privately funded network of electric car chargers warned state regulators Wednesday that Maryland could harm competition if it wields too heavy a hand in building charging stations.

Princeton-based NRG Energy Inc. filed the testimony with the Maryland Public Service Commission as part of the case regarding the pending acquisition of Constellation Energy Group Inc. by Chicago-based Exelon Corp. NRG zeroed in on a part of the deal that called for the companies to pay $10 million to promote electric car use in the state.

Glen Stancil, an expert witness hired by NRG who provided the testimony, said that the agreement is worded too vaguely and needs to be used for promoting the purchase of cars rather than building vehicle charging stations.

He recommended the commission earmark the money for tax and toll breaks and other incentives to encourage people to buy electric cars.

“It would be an inefficient use of resources for government to attempt to replicate or compete with private sector investment, either directly or by directing [Constellation and Exelon’s] funds to the effort,” Stancil said in his testimony.

Stancil said Maryland could curtail private sector involvement and stymie competition if the state gets too involved in building charging stations.

NRG says it is getting ready to roll out home-charging stations combined with a network of charging stations at other locations in the Baltimore-Washington area. A company spokeswoman declined to say when the rollout would begin.

NRG offers subscription plans to the network, called eVgo, ranging from $49 a month for a home charger only to $89 a month for the home equipment and access to other stations in the network. The company already has networks in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas.

“NRG strongly cautions that use of the funds should be restricted so as to not compete with the private sector,” Stancil wrote. “The money should not be used to develop a charging network, which is better left to the private sector.”

Raquel Gillory, spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, said the administration was aware of the filing and would address the concerns during the Public Service Commission’s review of the merger later this month.

As part of the package of benefits and concessions Exelon and Constellation have offered to state regulators is a commitment to give the state $10 million to support and grow the use of electric vehicles and build car-charging stations in the state.

The Maryland Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program was created to help lay the groundwork to encourage adoption of electric vehicles. The program got a $1 million infusion of economic stimulus money in June 2010 and there are now about 80 stations in the state, including nearly two dozen in Baltimore.

The Maryland Energy Administration declined to comment on the testimony. Christopher Rice, manager of the Transportation and Clean Cities programs for MEA, said the state’s goal in the program was merely to help lay the groundwork to encourage private involvement in building charging stations.

“We put money in to get the ball rolling and reduce people’s range anxiety,” Rice said. “The goal is to reduce people’s anxiety about how far they can drive the cars.”