Can Trump stop the transition to renewable energy?
Just before this issue went to the printer, President Trump signed an executive order instructing the US Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP is the plan from former president Obama to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. The plan directed states to find ways to reduce emissions from electricity plants by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. The plan was not to completely ban fossil fuels but to make sure that fossil fuel-fired power plants will operate more cleanly and efficiently, while expanding the capacity for zero- and low-emitting power sources like renewables. A benefit of the plan was also that the transition to clean energy would happen faster than anticipated. But can Trump stop the transition?
First of all, it is actually not up to Trump. The states set their own agenda and many states might opt to ignore him and keep shifting to renewable energy. At the moment the US wind energy market is in a good state with a period of foreseen growth, as the industry qualified a huge amount of capacity for PTCs in 2016. The economics of subsidised wind in the USA are extremely competitive, so it makes more sense for utilities to invest in renewables like wind rather than in coal-fired power plants.
The US coal industry is also no longer as big and important as some people might think. Coal provided 60% of US electricity in 2005, compared to only 30% today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics about 70,000 people work in coal mining.
Meanwhile, over 100,000 American workers now manufacture, construct and maintain the US wind turbine fleet according to the US Department of Energy. US wind power expansion is likely to grow to 248,000 jobs and US$ 85 billion dollars in economic activity over the next four years, according to Navigant Consulting. US wind industry jobs grew nearly 17% during 2016. By 2020 there would be 33,000 people from the USA working in factories supplying the wind industry, 114,000 building, operating and maintaining wind turbines, and an additional 102,000 workers in jobs supported by the industry. Wind recently surpassed hydropower dams to become the largest source of renewable electric capacity in the USA, and the fourth largest overall. Navigant forecasts the development of 35,000MW of additional wind power capacity between 2017 and 2020, a more than 40% increase. And, as of 2016, more than 80% of wind towers and up to 70% of blades and hubs are made in the USA, and 85% of turbine nacelles are assembled in the country.
So, can Trump stop the transition? In my opinion the answer is no. Signing this executive order is just to please his supporters and won’t make any difference to the transition to renewables. The transition even helps in achieving his plan to put America first and create US jobs.
Do you want to learn about the US wind industry yourself? From 22 to 25 May Windpower 2017 is organised in Anaheim, California, by the American Wind Energy Association. Over 7,000 wind industry professionals are expected to attend and over 425 exhibiting companies and organisations will show their products and services at the exhibition floor.
Enjoy reading this issue, and see you in Anaheim,