What Does Trump Mean for Solar?

untitled-designDonald Trump, President of the United States of America.  After a gruesome election process which saw our country divide perhaps more so than ever, many concerns arose.  As The Donald transitions into his presidency, concerns will likely continue to mount from various segments of our country.  One such concern is Donald Trump’s relationship with solar energy.

“Solar, as you know, hasn’t caught on because, I mean, a solar panel takes 32 years — it’s a 32-year payback. Who wants a 32-year payback? The fact is, the technology is not there yet.”

–Donald Trump, 2012 Fox News Interview

Trump’s stance on renewables has been less than encouraging.  During his campaign, he repeatedly assured listeners he would revive the coal industry.  Although he has somewhat shifted his stance on the Paris climate deal, Trump previously promised to withdraw from the program.
A Trump building with thin film solar panels on its windows in the future?
Trump has tabbed former Texas Governor Rick Perry for Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary, and Texas grew exceedingly well in wind and solar under Perry’s governorship.  Although Perry misunderstood the role of the DOE years ago when he suggested its elimination, during his recent hearing he regretting saying such and later affirmed, “I am committed to the continuation of using brilliant scientists, the private sector and universities in collaborating on finding solutions to challenges…whether on renewables or use of resources in a more efficient, safe, effective manner.”
Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO was also selected by Trump as Secretary of State.  Additionally, Elon Musk, the iconic solar pioneer, was appointed by Trump to the 18-member Strategic and Policy forum.  Tillerson and Musk represent contrasting ideologies in terms of energy, and Trump selecting both as well the aforementioned Perry raises interest.

“My administration is going to work together with the private sector to improve the business climate and make it attractive for firms to create new jobs across the United States from Silicon Valley to the heartland.”

Donald Trump, December 2016

Recently, we blogged about the federal investment tax credit (ITC) that has propelled the sales of solar in recent years.  The ITC has helped solar enjoy a generous growth, and was renewed by congress in 2015.  Trump has been mum on the ITC, but many market analysts and industry leaders believe a Trump change or repeal of the ITC is a possibility.  A repeal or change could result in “A potential cut in the Investment Tax Credit to 10 percent from the current 30 percent would slash solar installation demand by 60 percent,” per  S&P Global Platts report.
donald-trump-1041129_640According to the National Solar Jobs Census, solar employs over 200,000 Americans, as Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) forecasts that number to be over 360,000 in 2021.  Those numbers far outpace coal, oil, and natural gas numbers.  The aforementioned solar numbers reflect the sheer power of solar, and its workforce by association will protect the industry and help grow the American economy.  David Robinson of The Buffalo News recently reported that Adam Rizzo, President of Solar Liberty, reinforced solar’s employment and economic stance in that “those 200,000 jobs will help protect the industry and its crucial tax credit.”  Indeed, a cut in the ITC would affect thousands of families within the industry as well as those purchasing solar.

“Where the federal government does have control in energy is with FERC, the regulatory agency that watches over interstate utility interactions. But it can’t stop solar panels from being put on roofs or in fields or deserts within states.”
The Motley Fool

The Trump Presidency will undoubtedly face many challenges.  With the aforementioned sections of Perry, Tillerson, and Musk, it will be important to keep a close eye on energy policies.  It will also be important to watch his relationship with coal and natural gas as well as the ITC.  All of these factor in some shape or form of solar’s success.  Many experts are split on Trump and the federal government’s impact on solar, but many are supporting the idea that state policies present more of an impact.  Bloomberg, for example, cites that, “forecasts that wind and solar energy will grow 33 percent over the next two years, adding 40 gigawatts. A lot of that will be driven by state, rather than federal, policies.”  Policies such as net metering, renewable portfolio standards, and community solar standards, according to The Motley Fool. Thankfully, Floridians strongly supported solar in both August and November elections, exercising true power in the face of utilities.

“We spoke with the Trump team prior to the election, and they made clear to us that when Mr. Trump won, he did not plan on meddling in the electric markets, but instead encouraging competition. And to me, ‘competition’ is music to my ears.  Solar is allowed to compete with other energy sources across the country…We think that’s going to give us a leg up. We are the low-cost option for millions of American homeowners and businesses. We’re winning on the economics…I think that, regardless of who’s in the White House, solar is a winning technology, a winning energy source, a winning solution for America.”

Tom Kimbis, interim president, SEIA

Presidents have little control over energy markets
Over the course of history, Presidents have had little control regarding energy markets.  As the number of solar employees rises, perhaps Trump’s business sense will get the better of him.  Again, over 200,000 jobs are on the line, and that number is growing each day.  The Motley Fool further adds, “The solar industry is too cost competitive and has too much voter and state support, and there are too many jobs at stake.”
So what does President Trump mean for solar?  Make no mistake, he is an iconic businessman.    He has assembled a team of big oil and solar, and has made questionable comments regarding solar in the past.  Solar will continue to grow in popularity, with or with him, as Americans will undoubtedly see its value.  Perhaps President Trump will see solar’s value as well, and his influence should not be understated.  Floridians already see solar’s power; surely The Donald can see it as well!




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