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Renewables missing from Trump's energy plan

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 9, 2017
Even with federal support, coal will likely be too expensive to compete with renewable energy

coal solar wind
Energy Information Administration

By comparison, in 2015, new installations of solar power capacity surpassed both wind and coal for the second year in a row, accounting for 32% of all new electrical capacity, according to a new report from GTM Research.

There is a concern, analysts said, that the Trump Administration will roll back the 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar, which was passed in a bipartisan agreement and extended through 2019. After that, the tax credit will decline to 10% by 2022 in return for lifting the oil export ban.

The rollback "could happen, but [is] unlikely, due to the bipartisan nature of how the extension was passed in Congress and the momentum solar has right now," said Raj Prabhu, CEO of the Mercom Capital Group, a clean energy research firm. "Solar has gone mainstream with utilities, businesses, and homeowners, not to mention that solar jobs exceed over 200,000."

Coal production
Energy Information Administration

Former President Barack Obama focused his administration's efforts on addressing climate change and promoting renewable energy. For example, in August 2015, through an executive order Obama made $1 billion in loan guarantees available for states' renewable energy projects.

The administration also made available to single-family housing Property-Assessed Clean Energy financing, which made it easier for homeowners to invest in clean energy technologies. Obama also created the Department of Defense's Privatized Housing Solar Challenge, spurring private companies to commit to providing solar power to housing on over 40 military bases across the country -- with a goal of installing 300MW by 2020.

The Obama administration also made available $24 million for 11 projects in seven states to develop innovative solar technologies that double the amount of energy each solar panel can produce from the sun.

Solar Census jobs
Freedom Solar Power Workers prepare to install rooftop solar panels.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency created the Clean Power Plan, a policy aimed at combating global warming. Under that plan, the federal government set a goal of reducing carbon emissions in 2025 by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels and increasing the share of renewables in their respective electricity generation mixes to the level of 20% by 2030.

In 2014, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, according to a White House statement. Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50%. In fact, distributed solar prices fell by 10% to 20% in 2014 alone, and currently 44 states have pricing structures that encourage increased use of distributed energy resources.


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