Donald Trump has famously called climate change a hoax. He’s been a bit more ambiguous about his views since he started his presidential campaign, but still seems to lean more on the side of disbelief. His policies certainly don’t place much importance on combating climate change or using more renewable energy. His rhetoric has focused much more on coal and other more traditional sources of energy.
Trump’s election created a lot of worry about the future of climate policy and renewable energy — at least, at first. The renewables industry, though, says it will keep thriving, no matter who’s in the White House.
The renewable energy sector, especially wind and solar, has experienced impressive growth in recent years. It grew at record levels in 2016, surpassing the increases in the fossil fuel industry. Seventy-two percent of the money spent on new global power generation from now until 2040, which totals 10.2 trillion dollars will be spent on wind and solar photovoltaic plants, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
This momentum is due primarily to market forces. Tax credits and other incentives have helped wind and solar in the past, but industry leaders now say the market is enough to keep the industry thriving.
Costs for wind and solar have fallen dramatically, making them competitive with fossil fuels. By 2021, solar will be cheaper than coal in the U.S. and other countries, the Bloomberg report found. The cost of wind energy, especially offshore, is predicted to continue to fall dramatically.
Consumers are increasingly opting for renewable, and big companies like Apple and Google have plans to switch to the renewables. Unless the government imposes rules that directly go against renewables, it will continue to become more affordable, and demand will continue to grow.
As a businessman, Trump should see the potential renewables have to help the U.S. economy and create jobs. He has said he wants to use all our natural resources. He may have to eventually accept the fact that coal isn’t likely to come out on top.
Red States and Renewables
The fact that renewables have bipartisan support is another sign that the industry will continue to thrive. The combination of job creation, economic growth and emissions reduction is a benefits package neither Republicans nor Democrats could reasonably turn down.
In fact, red states that voted for Trump have made some of the biggest investments in renewables. Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and North Dakota, all of which Trump won, get the largest percentages of their energy from wind of any states.
It isn’t a sense of environmental responsibility that’s driving these Republican states to opt for renewables. It’s the economic opportunity. Producing renewable energy in your state brings manufacturing jobs, construction and installation jobs, income for farmers that house wind turbines on their land and lower electricity prices. Renewable energy also, of course, reduces emissions — even if that’s not the primary goal of installing it.
Kansas used to have a renewable energy mandate that required 20 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewables by 2020. The state got rid of the law, but the renewable industry continued to expand anyway. By 2014, it had already exceeded the former law’s 2020 target. In 2016, Kansas got 30 percent of its energy from wind, and may be on its way to 50 percent in the next few years.
Democrats want to see renewables succeed because of their environmental attributes, as well as their economic ones. For many Republicans, the economics may be enough. Despite the rhetoric and maybe even the policies of President Trump, the renewable energy industry will likely continue to thrive.
Emily Folk a contributor to ViewsWeek. He is a conservation and sustainability journalist and the editor of Conservation Folks.