Donald Trump the candidate dismissed renewable energy as “very expensive.” But several analysts think Trump the president will have a harder time countering appeals from Republican governors and private sector utilities based on the falling price of solar and wind energy, and the jobs created by manufacturing, installing, and maintaining their technologies and associated grid infrastructure.
The arguments skirt climate change and go straight to Trump’s professed interest in pocketbook issues: renewable energy costs less, and employs a lot of people in states that voted for him.
“That argument is catching on at the state level,” Utility Dive reports, “with a number of states with Republican leadership embracing renewable energy mandates.” The Republican governors of Michigan, Illinois, and Vermont have all endorsed, strengthened, or raised renewable electricity supply mandates in their states.
“We expect several [more] states to consider and possibly strengthen their [Renewable Portfolio Standards] this year,” Clearview Energy Partners Vice President Timothy Fox told Utility Dive. Republican-led legislators in Maryland and Massachusetts, along with regulators in deep Red Arizona, are all contemplating higher mandates. And because those standards are within states’ jurisdiction, Fox added, they are likely to be protected from Executive Branch initiatives, “irrespective of who is in the White House.”
In late December, Ohio Governor and former Republican leadership contender John Kasich “went against Republican opponents of the state’s RPS when he vetoed a bill that would have effectively extended a freeze” in the mandate, Utility Dive notes. The Rust Belt state, as Kasich noted at the time, “has also benefited from the job growth associated with renewable energy.”
Indeed, “wind turbine technician is one of the fastest growing segments in the U.S. labor market,” the outlet notes, citing the U.S. Department of Labor.
The latest Department of Energy jobs report, meanwhile, shows that “employment in the electric power sector rose 13% in 2016 as utilities and developers built new power plants, replaced aging equipment, and invested in new technologies,” Greentech Media reports. “Workers building solar, natural gas, and wind power plants accounted for most of the increase,” and more than 860,000 people worked in the U.S. electric power sector last year. In 2017, the sector is expected to add another 60,000 jobs, an increase of 7%.
Falling costs haven’t hurt the economic case for renewables, either. A “recent levelized cost analysis from the investment firm Lazard shows wind energy to be cheaper than natural gas and competitive with coal on an unsubsidized basis, with utility-scale solar not far behind,” Greentech notes.
Meanwhile, investments in energy efficiency, perhaps the most workaday and most often ignored of green energy sectors, have created at least 1.9 million full- and part-time jobs across the United States, almost 10 times as many as oil and gas extraction.