Analyst: Doubtful Trump will interfere with renewable energy boom

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An official with Clear View Energy Partners told TransForum East on Nov. 16 that he doubts the incoming Donald Trump administration will go out of its way to jeopardize the booming renewable energy sector.

Clear View Vice President and Research Analyst Tim Fox told the conference that President-Elect Donald Trump wants to put emphasis on job creation and renewables have proven to be a big job creator.

Don’t expect a big “pivot” away from the national push toward renewable energy, Fox said.

“President-elect Trump campaigned for expanding manufacturing jobs,” and renewable energy can be seen as an “America first” source of electricity, Fox said.

A more likely scenario would be that Republicans continue to stand behind a gradual phase-out of the major federal renewable tax credits.

Fox said that renewables like wind and solar, and the federal tax credits that support them have significant political backing – including among Republicans in Midwest states with a big wind power sector.

While many Republicans have voted to support renewables, Democrats are virtually united in their support of clean energy, Fox said.

In late 2015, Congress passed a trillion dollar spending and tax credit package that included extension of the investment tax credit and the production tax credit, Fox noted.

The ITC policy that supports solar was extended through 2019 and the PTC, which supports wind power, was extended through 2017. It will thereafter be phased out through 2021.

In addition, a huge factor in renewable power success has been renewable portfolio standards (RPS) at the state level, Fox said. About half of the states with RPS policies, have Republican governors, Fox said.

Fox cautioned, however, that growing renewable energy generation might not necessarily result in a lot of new electric transmission construction.

While the public supports renewable power that support might not extend to big transmission infrastructure connected to utility-scale wind and solar projects.

Also some FERC policy to encourage transmission construction has had mixed results, Fox said. FERC’s rate-making model is likely to remain under pressure, Fox said.

Much of the growth in transmission investment seems to be in smaller, local grid upgrades, Fox said.

“Larger [transmission] projects are being delayed or even terminated while smaller projects are moving forward” based on anecdotal evidence, Fox said.

The increasing deployment of distributed generation, particularly rooftop solar, could prove a challenge to big transmission projects, Fox said.

There is currently a huge fight going on before state commissions on what grid fee structure should be in place for rooftop solar customers and non-rooftop solar customers, Fox said. Rooftop solar appears to be “eating away at the need” for big transmission projects in some situations, Fox said.

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