If Mr Trump really did not want to get elected next year, he would take issue with the attempted renewal of the Investment Tax Credits (ITC) for renewable energy installations and in the process put out of work the 374,000 people who work in solar, and the 100,000 plus who work in the rapidly growing Wind energy industry. There are probably another 100,000 entering those two industries in the next year. That’s over half a million people he could upset in one move. If you add that to the 2.5 million majority that the Democrats had last time in the popular vote, that might be enough to sink his campaign in one move.
Instead of fighting the move, Trump is likely to simply let the ITC extension go through and then claim during the election that it was just one more thing that happened in favor of climate action while he was in charge. Claiming the credit may be something he can get away with, fighting two bills, both pushed by members of his own party, is quite another.
We have pointed out before that more people are employed in solar power than in generating electricity through coal, gas and oil combined. Solar power employed 43% (374,000) of the Electric Power Generation workforce in 2016, while fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22% (187,000).
Solar energy added 73,615 new jobs to the US economy over the past year while wind added a further 24,650.
The move to renew the ITC happened just after we went to press last week, and came in the form of two bills, one in the Senate and another in Congress.
The timing of those bills was vital. On the one hand the industry wants to make everyone involved in renewables feel that they must complete installations before ITC tax deadlines, while on the other, they must not leave the bill too little time to progress and make it into law, before next year’s election campaigns begin in earnest.
This will likely be the final push that solar in particular needs to make it to the point in the US where it is able to stand on its own feet, without any subsidy. The ITC works like a subsidy make investing in solar more worthwhile for investors, intensifying its margins and making it the stand out investment in energy. Wind and batteries will also benefit, but in essence it is the battery market that now needs the greatest push, and many projects will be combination of two or all three of these technologies.
Throughout its existence the Trump administration has tried to undermine global climate negotiations, and pushed the coal and oil agenda, but while the White House has imposed tariffs on Chinese solar modules it has made an exception for bifacial modules, which are currently the meat and drink of the investment community because they produce more energy that one sided panels.
As much as Trump might like to push back on this legislation, he would much rather get elected for a second term.
The Renewable Energy Extension Act was put up by a cross party group of congressmen, two of which were Republicans and companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democratic senator.
The rates for the ITC were supposed to have declined from their 30% high this year over a period of years, and it is now proposed that the 30% rate stays in place for another 5 years before the tax incentives decline from that point.
The Renewable Energy Extension would also extend the ITC for other clean energy technologies, including fiber-optic solar, fuel cells, small wind, microturbines, combined heat and power, and geothermal heat pumps. Federal tax incentives for wind and solar were extended in a similar bipartisan deal in 2015.