Why president Trump can’t squash the innovating, job creating, money saving clean energy industry

QUARTZ
By Nancy Pfund
November 18, 2016

Like many oth­ers, pro­po­nents of clean energy were thrown into a state of shock after the US elec­tion results. Dur­ing the cam­paign, now President-​​elect Trump dis­missed cli­mate change as a Chi­nese hoax and threat­ened an abrupt shift in US energy policy.

Despite this shaken polit­i­cal cli­mate, there are many rea­sons to remain opti­mistic about the prospects for clean energy in the United States. Specif­i­cally, renew­able energy is broadly pop­u­lar, makes sense finan­cially, and is largely state-​​regulated.

Out­side of Wash­ing­ton, there is over­whelm­ing sup­port for renew­able energy. Gallup found that 79% of Amer­i­cans would like to see more empha­sis on domes­tic solar energy pro­duc­tion and they are increas­ingly vot­ing with their roofs: more than one mil­lion US homes now have solar pan­els installed. Red states like South Dakota and Idaho are on the fore­front of renew­able energy adop­tion along­side blue states like Cal­i­for­nia and Mass­a­chu­setts. Clean energy is not a par­ti­san issue—it’s a tech­nol­ogy that can pro­vide solid mid­dle class jobs and energy sav­ings for all.

Renew­ables energy’s pop­u­lar­ity is sim­i­larly broad among cor­po­ra­tions. Over 80 major com­pa­nies have com­mit­ted to the goal of 100% renew­able energy includ­ing Ikea, Apple, Google, Bank of Amer­ica, Coca Cola, Nike, P&G, Wal­mart, and many more. Whole Foods achieved the feat back in 2006. Increas­ingly cor­po­ra­tions are break­ing from tra­di­tional mod­els and pro­duc­ing and buy­ing renew­able energy directly to meet their goals. For exam­ple, ear­lier this year three of Nevada’s largest casinos—MGM Resorts, Wynn, and the Las Vegas Sands—announced plans to leave the state’s util­ity to pro­cure more renew­able energy on the open market.

A key dri­ver to country-​​wide adop­tion of renew­able energy by both con­sumers and cor­po­ra­tions is eco­nom­ics. Regard­less of one’s views of the envi­ron­ment, renew­able energy, par­tic­u­larly when com­bined with stor­age, is increas­ingly the right finan­cial deci­sion. The cost of pro­duc­ing solar energy, for instance, has fallen rapidly and is now 70% less expen­sive than it was a decade ago. Fur­ther, renew­able energy pro­vides more price sta­bil­ity than con­ven­tional fos­sil fuels, which may be fur­ther exac­er­bated if we enter an era of trade wars.

Finally, state and local gov­ern­ments play a much larger role in the man­age­ment of the energy indus­try than the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. State util­ity com­mis­sions lead util­ity reg­u­la­tion and are guided by state leg­is­la­tures and gov­er­nors in set­ting goals, incen­tives, and pol­icy guide­lines. State-​​level bal­lot ini­tia­tives have fur­ther demon­strated broad con­sumer sup­port for renew­able poli­cies. This week Florida vot­ers defeated a utility-​​supported mea­sure to restrict solar in the state and Nevada voted over­whelm­ingly to end NV Energy’s legal monop­oly and cre­ate a path for more clean, cost-​​effective energy in the state.

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