Last week, solar celebrated early results of its record year in 2016, installing 14.6 gigawatts (GWs) of new solar, while the renewables industries celebrated record levels of employment. In what amounts to a potential blow to this jobs and clean energy growth President Donald Trump (R) curbed water protections to allow coal to complete with low-cost renewables. This even as more conservatives are pushing for a carbon tax.
Good news first, the US solar industry installed 14.6 gigawatts of solar power last year. That’s according to preliminary results of the annual U.S. Solar Market Insight Report issued by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). That’s 95 percent more than the 7.5 gigawatts (GWs) of solar installed in 2015. It’s also a telling sign of the popularity of solar power as it becomes cost-competitive with conventional forms of energy generation.
Meanwhile the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF’s) recent report on clean energy jobs found that between 4 to 4.5 million people are employed in the US’s clean energy sector. Solar and wind power industries have seen jobs grow by 20 percent since 2012, which he report said is 12 times faster than the rest of the US economy.
Both of these pieces of news come as Trump ended new water protections that keep pollutants out of US’s streams, making it easier for mine tailings and more to enter streams, without mining companies being held accountable. This will help make coal cheaper and more competitive with solar and wind.
Maybe Trump (R) will find himself increasingly at odds with even those in his own party in terms of renewable energy. Even as Trump cut water protections across the US, a group of prominent conservatives called for implementing a carbon tax. The Climate Leadership Council introduced the Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends. “Crazy as it may sound, this is the perfect time to enact a sensible policy to address the dangerous threat of climate change,” wrote Climate Leadership Council’s CEO Ted Halstead and his fellow authors Martin Feldstein and Gregory Mankiw in a New York Times op-ed.
At the same time the Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition, a large, bipartisan governors' group called on Trump and Congress to push for more renewable energy. In a letter to both Trump and Congress the governors urged the federal government to increase wind and solar research and development, streamline permitting and update transmission infrastructure for renewable energy development.Tweet