Many are worried that President-Elect Donald Trump could gut the renewable energy industries and the progress the industries have made in the past decade. But at least one sustainability director posits the idea that Trump’s interest in deregulating the energy sector could actually grow the solar market by $70 billion.
In an opinion piece published at Huffington Post, Joshua Pearce, director of the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology Lab, said that outdated regulations are a $70 billion barrier to solar energy in the US. Referring to a recent study he authored, he observed that plug-and-play solar systems—systems designed to start providing power to a home or the grid with the simple installation of as few as one solar like a model being introduced by SunCulture, are still largely illegal in the US because of antiquated regulations.
“Earlier this year my research group painstakingly went through a technical/safety analysis of plug-and-play PV in the U.S. The study showed there is no valid technical reason we should not follow the trends in other advanced industrialized nations and allow plug and play solar in America,” Pearce stated on Huffington. “Countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Switzerland already encourage plug-and-play solar. Even the Czech Republic permits it!” He contended that a federal electric regulation could allow plug-and-play solar across the country while fitting in with Trump’s interest in deregulation.
Pearce also pointed to the growing body of evidence showing that solar power is becoming increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels and that most of the US’s new power generation came from solar power in 2016—a first! As such, not just utilities are adding in more solar, but many more US households are installing solar as well.
“However, the average American moves over 11 times over their lifetime and more than a third of Americans rent so making a 25-year investment in fixed solar photovoltaic system on a roof is challenging,” Pearce argued. He said that the aforementioned plug and play solar systems could allow those who rent and those likely to move, to purchase a small solar system and add more panels on to it over time as their need grows.
If Trump were to make a regulatory change in favor of plug-and-play solar power, Pearce’s report showed that the US could install more than 57 more gigawatts (GWs) of solar power in plug and play systems. That’s a large amount of electricity particularly considering that he estimated most plug and play systems to be up to 4 solar panels in size and totaling less than 1 kilowatt each.
Pearce said this could save consumers approximately $13 billion annually while creating an essentially new sales for retailers from Target and Costco to Home Depot and Lowes. That, he contended, could generate between $14.3 billion and $71.7 billion for the economy.Tweet