by Paula Mints
The endless and endlessly not amusing US presidential election is thankfully wrapping up in November and there is a lot at stake for solar – globally. This is because the market for solar components and systems is global. Even the smallest installer buys imports. Even the smallest component manufacturer has the potential to ship product into any global market. A hiccup in one market (China, for example) reverberates throughout the entire global market for solar components and systems.
A hiccup in the US market for solar deployment would affect business plans and forecasts for all participants and observers – globally.
Currently the US market for commercial installations is stable. The US market for residential installations is currently less stable. Manufacturers, developers, scientists, engineers, teach-ers, insurance firms, law firms, consultants and others from around the world look to do business in the relatively stable climate for solar deployment in the US.
The following presents US solar market growth in the aggregate from 2006 through 2016.
Aggregate US Solar PV Market Growth, 2006-2016
In this US presidential election, one presidential candidate has tweeted that climate change is a hoax “invented by the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturers noncompetitive.”
The other presidential candidate will make the climate a key part of her agenda and will follow through on many of President Obama’s mandates concerning it.
Like it or not, the 2016 presidential election is crucial to solar – and wind and other renewable electricity generating technologies – momentum in the US and elsewhere. Here are a few of the reasons why:
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court should have nine justices, thus ensuring no tie decisions. Currently there are eight justices on the US Supreme Court, which opens the possibility of a tie instead of a majority decision. A tie is a stalemate that allows decisions rendered by lower courts to stand. The Clean Power Plan is currently being legislated in at least 24 states. The new president will appoint (or attempt to appoint) at least one justice, maybe two, to the court. As justices serve for life or until retirement the direction of the US will be affected for decades by whatever happens with the US Supreme Court. Should the Republicans lose control of the House or senate, or, should numbers tighten in the House, the current historic refusal to give President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing would pass into painful US history, the stalemate would be broken and congress would (potentially) finally do its job. This means that the current congressional election is almost as important as the presidential election in that both affect the future of the Supreme Court.
The Clean Power Plan
Secretary Clinton has said that she will uphold the CPP. Mr. Trump has promised to repeal it. Despite filing lawsuits states are making plans to install and integrate renewables. Even if the CPP is repealed some of these plans will go forward (in California for example) though some will be scaled back and many will be scrapped.
Florida Constitutional Amendment
This is specific to Florida and so this one is on the voters. Should this constitutional amend-ment succeed look for something similar to pop up on ballots in other states. Deceptive language used for a constitutional amendment that is on the ballot in Florida backed by its biggest utilities claims to promote solar when it would actually allow utilities to raise fees on solar customers. If approved it would take effect immediately and an already underperforming market would be unlikely to become a highly performing one.
The president appoints the Secretary of Energy. The Secretary of Energy is the head of the DoE and determines its direction. A climate change denier as head of the DoE would be disastrous for the solar budget and the budget for renewable energy technologies develop-ment and deployment.
A budget squeeze at the DoE would affect NREL’s funding and perhaps defund it altogether.
The ITC was a bipartisan agreement – not all conservatives and republicans are climate change deniers. It would take an act of congress to overturn the ITC and this is unlikely.
The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA
Mr. Trump would like to eliminate the EPA (and other consumer and climate protections). Secretary Clinton holds Obama’s view on the EPA’s direction.
Paris Climate Change Agreement
The Paris Climate Change Agreement commits countries to take action to slow the rise in global temperatures and to offer voluntary plans in this regard. The Paris Agreement relies on nations to behave in their own and the climate’s best interest and to act as though the agreement were binding – which it is not. Secretary Clinton will not only uphold the Paris Climate Agreement, she will act on it. Mr. Trump has loudly and proudly said that he will pull out of the agreement.
The US Oil, Gas and Coal Industries
A big winner if Trump is elected but likely to not suffer terribly under a Clinton administration.
Paula Mints is founder of SPV Market Research, a classic solar market research practice focused on gathering data through primary research and providing analyses of the global solar industry. You can find her on Twitter @PaulaMints1 and read her blog here.
This article was originally published in the October31st issue of SolarFlare, a bimonthly executive report on the solar industry, and is republished with permission.