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Renewable Energy Sector Stays Positive Despite Trump’s Policy Outlook

(Credit: Scott Olson / Staff) Amid the incoming Trump administration's policy outlook, the renewable energy sector remains optimistic that would not be killed.Country's Largest Urban Solar 'Farm' Generates Electricity For Chicago
December 23
7:45 PM 2016

The future in the renewable energy sector of the United States has been clouded with recent moves by President-elect Donald Trump. He has appointed several cabinet members with strong ties to oil and gas. He has also expressed his support for coal.

In a campaign rally in California, Mr. Trump said that he knows a lot about solar.

"I love solar. Except there's a problem with it. It's got a lot of problems with it. One problem is it's so expensive," he said last summer.

Despite such statement, Michael Wheeler of Recurrent Energy remains optimistic.

"We're feeling as though we're going to be OK," he commented.

"Anybody who thinks that solar is expensive at the utility scale right now hasn't seen the latest. Solar's price, because it's a technology, will continue to go lower and lower," Mr. Wheeler said.

Power from big solar projects has become about 70% cheaper today than its price in the previous decade. Wind power has also come down. Because of this, electric utilities has been choosing renewables on cost alone.

"Clean energy is not a niche product anymore," he added.

Although it may face opposition from environmentalists, the Trump administration's possible move to open public lands for development could make it easier for solar and wind companies to build projects.

Despite being positive about the state of the sector on the incoming administration, Wheeler and other renewable companies worry since they are relying on longstanding tax credits. Mr. Trump has complained about those subsidies.

Mr. Wheeler said that canceling the subsidies could hurt the demand for solar and wind, but it would not kill it.

Another big issue is President Barack Obama's climate change policy or the Clean Power Plan which would require states to move away from coal power. If pushed through, this would have quadrupled the market for renewables. The implementation of this, however, is uncertain since Mr. Trump has vowed to toss it out.

Since the federal government is not the only place where policy gets made, Dan Kammen who is an energy professor at UC Berkeley, said that sometimes a hostile White House can energize regional efforts.

"I think there's no question states are going to be critical. Just like under President George Bush, we saw tremendous action at the state level," he said.

With more almost 30 states that have set goals for renewable energy, the sector still has the potential to continue running even if the Clean Power Plan goes away.

Dan Kammen noted that this only means that renewable energy market has momentum.

"An administration can dramatically put its finger on the scale and accelerate that or they can hold it back," he said.

Presently, there is a growing demand for renewables worldwide. Mr. Kammen has recently gone to Dubai where solar farms are being planned at record-low costs. This, according to Mr. Kammen, indicates that renewables are here to stay.

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