Renewables Will Survive President Trump Just Fine
A campaigning Donald Trump scorned renewable energy as “very expensive” and committed his incoming administration to boosting America’s fossil energy production. But economics and technology—as well as Trump’s own priorities—point to a more optimistic future for clean energy in the United States, numerous analyses suggest.
“‘Energy is not one of the top five agenda items’ on Trump’s to-do list when he takes office in January,” Utility Dive reports, citing “a major Trump financial contributor who said he is a member of the transition team and spoke on the condition of anonymity.” That means U.S. federal subsidies for renewable energy “will remain in place,” the source said. “Everything continues.”
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Meanwhile markets and innovation are pushing the unsubsidized cost of renewable energy down, continually boosting their competitiveness against fossils.
“Even with Congress in Republican hands after the election, it is unlikely there would be a move to repeal the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power or the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar power,” Utility Dive judges. A Republican-dominated pre-election Congress approved both measures less than a year ago, “with definitive expiration dates,” it notes. “The PTC is expiring by 2020 and the ITC will drop to 10% in 2021.”
In fact, federal policy has only a small role in either the popularity or possible suppression of clean energy in the United States, Fast Co.Exist argues.
“Washington gets ascribed too much credit and given too much blame for the way the energy markets operate,” the outlet writes, citing Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Ethan Zindler. “In the last eight years, we’ve had incredible decarbonization, and most of that has had nothing to do with Washington.”
“Wind and solar power have come down in price to such an extent that they’re mainstream,” Fast Co.Exist adds, “not flimsy technologies needing propping up by government.” Meanwhile, electric vehicles should reach cost/performance parity with gas-driven models within a decade, and as the outlet notes, “the key driver there is the cost of batteries, which is falling fast, not government policy.”
The same policy-independent trendlines are pushing utility-scale renewables adoption. “There are a couple of forces that are greater than the might of a U.S. President as bold as Trump: physics and economics,” argues Australia’s RenewEconomy blog.
“Trump may not be a fan of clean energy, but sooner or later he must realize that the cost of technology like wind and solar is rapidly out-competing all other forms of new generation, including coal, gas, and nuclear. As existing power plants get older and need to be replaced, these fundamentals are driving new clean energy at unprecedented rates. Investment in clean energy globally is now greater than that for fossil fuel-based generation, and that trend should only continue.”
Political blog FiveThirtyEight offers yet another reason a Trump administration may not to level its sights on the renewable energy industries: jobs.
“Just over 600,000 Americans are employed in industries related to alternative energy— not including the 1.9 million employed in the energy efficiency industry. There are far more people employed in all the industries related to fossil fuels, 3.6 million in the U.S. in total. But 600,000 jobs is a big deal to the American economy, similar to the number of jobs the Economic Policy Institute estimates the U.S. lost to Mexico because of NAFTA.”
Or, as Forbes puts it: “United States climate change policy and goals will evaporate, as will the Clean Power Plan, the Paris accords (on this, The Energy Mix respectfully disagrees), any teeth in the Environmental Protection Agency, and any hope of a carbon tax. There will be no opposition to pipeline construction or drilling on public lands and wildlife areas. Renewables should be fine.”