In his only major energy speech, the president-elect said he would rescind environmental regulations and revive U.S. coal, but the impact of his presidency on renewable energy may be limited. Solar’s position in particular is better than one might expect.
Rooftop solar in the U.S. is largely safe for two reasons: net metering policies are decided at the state-level and the federal tax credit to offset the cost of installations, first signed into law under George W. Bush in 2005, were extended by a Republican Congress last year. Nowadays, some of the most powerful GOP voices in Congress come from states like Texas that have benefited immensely from the rise of solar power. It would not be surprising to see more red states with economic incentive stand with blue states in support of solar.
Texas’s economy has already benefited greatly from wind power development in the state and solar appears poised to make a similar performance in the state. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Texas is one of the few states for which solar power is competitive with both coal and natural gas.
With a combination of cheap land leases and abundant sunlight, the state has the potential to match even California for raw quantity of solar power capacity.
With a major powerhouse behind them, solar incentives should at least have enough support to keep current programs in place for their current duration. For the solar investment tax credit that duration extends slightly past the 2020 presidential election.
Solar panel prices have also dropped, on average, more than 15% a year since 2013. Even if all of the incentives and subsidies that support solar were suddenly removed, the industry would eventually recover as prices continue to fall. Economies of scale and other factors that have driven the price of solar panels down for decades, but only recently has solar power begun competing with fossil fuels, in major markets, purely on price.
All in all, solar’s position is more stable than most would think with a GOP Congress and White House thanks to the fact that, for the first time in modern history, it has both environmentalist and capitalist support in both red and blue states.