Conference debates the Trump effect on energy

Twenty-four hours after Donald Trump became President Elect of the United States, senior players in the power industry yesterday debated what his election will mean for the energy sector.

Some thought that despite his widely-known views on climate change, he would have little influence over the global clean energy agenda, but all believed he would have a fundamental effect on the American energy market.

“I will be surprised if we do not see a reversal in climate policy in the US,” said Lawrence Jones, vice-president of international programmes at the Edison Electric Institute.

“Based on what we have heard [from Trump], we do expect for some turnaround on the clean energy transition… maybe more movement in coal.”

However, Jones explained that with huge clean energy growth and potential in China and India, “the US should think of one thing – it all boils down to jobs. And clean energy is perhaps one of the areas that jobs are going to come from. Demand is what drives the energy industry and if we are not careful, jobs will not come back to America [from Asia].”

And speaking at the Economist Energy Summit in London, he warned: “The trajectory of US energy policy could be reversed at a Supreme Court level, a Congressional level and at a Presidential level.”

Mel Kroon, chief executive of Dutch transmission system operator TenneT, said he was “still slightly optimistic” on Trump’s approach to energy, particularly with his years of experience as a businessman.

“A lot of companies realise that environmental change might be an interesting business case. It is gaining so much momentum that politicians will not stop it.”

Felix Lerch, country chairman of Uniper UK, agreed: “I believe that coming from business, Mr Trump will make rational decisions.”

Peter Terium, chief executive of German energy giant Innogy, said the direction of travel on climate change was too fast-paced for the new US president to alter: “One single American is not going to make a difference to the unstoppable trend of decarbonisation.”

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