Last night, the American people elected a climate change denier, Donald Trump, as their president for the next 4 years. Now Trump wasn’t elected based on his environmental policies, but nonetheless, that’s what the US will be stuck with for the next 4 years now that Trump and the Republican Party control the White House, the US Senate, and the US House.
Whether the US, or the world, can survive 4 years of climate change denial in US leadership remains to be seen, but considering that Trump warned that he will kill clean energy subsidies and all spending under Obama, we can get a good idea of what the short-term prospects look like for the clean tech sector.
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We will look more into what it means for electric vehicles and Tesla in further stories, but I would argue the solar and wind sectors are actually more “at risk” for the mid- to short-term.
One of the main growth factors for solar energy in the US over the past few years has been the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC); a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. It also applies to wind energy.
That’s likely the most at risk subsidy for clean energy under Trump.
It was set to phase out starting this year but after a long bipartisan negotiation that included a lift on the 40-year ban on US crude oil exports, the US Congress passed an extension of the solar ITC at the current 30-percent rate through 2019, followed by a phasing out period : 26 percent in 2020, 22 percent in 2021, and 10 percent in 2022.
The extension was welcomed by the solar industry as a way to bridge the gap until the energy source becomes competitive on its own against fossil fuels in more markets. It also secured some of the ~180,000 solar jobs in the US.
The ITC makes it attractive for a lot of property owners to install solar at home or at their businesses and save money on their utility bill. The number of markets where that will still be the case will fall dramatically if the ITC is removed early by Trump or the Republicans in Congress. We would suggest to get quotes from solar installers in your region and see if it can be advantageous for you to go solar before it’s too late. We suggest to get quotes from more than one installer to make sure you get the best energy solution for your house or business. UnderstandSolar is a great free service to link you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates for free.
Once you get the tax credit, you have it, but there are other policies that can affect solar customers in the long-term, like net metering. Changes in net metering affect the relation between electric utilities and solar customers and can have just as great of an impact on solar as ITC, but fortunately, it’s handled at a state level and we actually had some good news with some initiatives on the ballots in Florida and Nevada yesterday.
Florida voted to reject a utility-funded ballot measure to make the net metering system useless to homeowners with solar. Florida has now a chance to become significantly more active in deploying solar energy and be more deserving of the name “sunshine state”.
At least the election wasn’t all bad for clean tech yesterday.
Since it wasn’t overly discussed during the election, I would suggest this video of a debate between top energy advisors from Clinton’s camp and Trump’s camp to get an idea of who is behind Trump’s energy and environmental policies: