We’ve been discussing the US solar industry in the last few weeks here on the Greenstream blog, wondering about the impact of climate change denier Trump’s election. Recent statistics, due to be published 9th March by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries’ Association indicate that the current solar industry in the US is at an all time high and only set to increase, Presidential denial notwithstanding.
The US solar market had its biggest year to date in 2016, doubling its annual record at total installations of 14,626 megawatts. 22 states each added more than 100 megawatts. Minnesota and Massachusetts led the community solar record, while most of the growth was due to an increase in utility-scale solar as it becomes ever more cost competitive with fossil fuels. Solar accounted for 39% of all new additions across all fuel types.
This makes the US, for the first time ever, the number one source of solar generation. Small surprise then that our bestselling Solar Electricity Handbook consistently tops the US solar chart!
Renewable energy has been the sensible and increasingly cost-effective choice for homeowners and corporations for quite some time, a far cry from the days of renewable energy projects in the developed world being the preserve of end-of-world conspiracy theorists and hippies. Yet since the inauguration of President Trump – who stated in 2015 that renewable energy was ‘just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves’ – renewables may become a counter-culture choice once again, as Trump makes climate change denial the official stance and attempts to suppress the voices of those who claim otherwise. Renewables are radical once more.
Except, the voices that cry for energy revolution are no longer voices in the wilderness. Solar and wind have become mainstream, and clean energy is no longer a niche project. Most industry insiders have expressed a belief that it is too late for Trump to stem the tide of energy reform, no matter how vehement his denial or how fossil-fuel friendly his policies
Let’s hope they’re right. Meanwhile, Trump moves forward on tossing out Obama’s Clean Power Plan and cutting longstanding tax subsidies….
Well, for a start, Trump has dismissed climate change in the past. He seems to believe it doesn’t exist, and in fact is a myth created by the Chinese.
He also pledged to ‘stop the war’ on the coal and mining industry and stated that shale energy was the way forward and would ‘unleash massive wealth’ for America, ignoring the fact that both industries are in competition with each other, making it rather difficult to support them both. Solar and wind, the renewable energy sources we strongly advocate here at Greenstream, were dismissed as too expensive in spite of the fact that in recent years with lowered costs and innovations in technology, that argument is no longer as viable.
My guess is that most renewable energy enthusiasts, if voting purely on the issues of energy and climate change, would have gone for Clinton, whop promised to continue the strides forward taken during Obama’s residency. Trumps election then has surely come as a blow.
So in real terms, what could this mean? Back in 2009, Trump seemed to be a supporter of renewables; he gave his signature along with others to a letter to Obama before the Copenhagan Climate Summit, calling for an increase in clean energy technologies. But in his recent campaign pledges he has gone against that in dramatic fashion, promising to rescind Obamas Clean Energy Plan, back out of the Paris climate agreement and has been vocal about his dislike of the wind farms in view of his golf course.
It’s not looking good.
But I think it’s important not to catastrophise. Donald Trump cannot, in four years, President or not, single-handedly dismantle the renewable energy revolution. He cannot stop individual states from pursuing reduced emissions. He cannot prevent the slide of the coal industry, for all his ‘war’ rhetoric. He can’t abolish the EPA without the support of Congress. His plans to spend a trillion dollars building new roads isn’t likely to be supported by conservative Republicans. He cannot change the fact that clean energy technology continues to get better and better and cheaper and cheaper.
We can wait, Mr Trump.