Solar energy is on a roll. There is now more than 31.6 GW of installed solar capacity, enough to power more than 6.2 million American homes. There are now more than 1.1 million solar energy systems and it is expected to reach 2 million systems by 2018. Employment in the American solar industry is growing at 12 times the rate of overall job creation with more people employed in solar than oil and gas, and coal extraction. Worldwide more than 8.1 million people have jobs in the renewable energy industry. So clean energy is becoming big business. It should be a huge issue in this contentious election season.
Surprisingly, renewable energy, in particular solar, has not been a major talking point in this election season. Where do the two candidates for the presidency of the United States stand on solar? What are their platforms and future plans?
Donald Trump on solar energy
Trump's position on solar energy policy has been unclear as he has only touched on solar a few times. We can tell you that he is a big proponent of fossil fuel deployment and the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency. He has also stated his intention to pull the U.S. out of the international climate change treaty negotiated in Paris in December 2015. He dismisses the science behind climate change and states that renewable energy is too expensive.
In March of 2012, Donald Trump told Greta Van Sustern of Fox News:
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you're critical of his green energy program. And look, Solyndra has been an unmitigated disaster, costing taxpayers over $500 million. And there were a lot of red flags that that was bad business investment to begin with. But if green -- are -- is there -- everything about green energy that you don't like, or are there some parts of it that you think are worthy to pursue?
Donald Trump: Right now, green energy is way behind the times. You look at the windmills that are destroying shorelines all over the world. Economically, they’re not good. It’s a very, very poor form of energy. Solar, as you know, hasn’t caught on because, I mean, a solar panel takes 32 years — it’s a 32-year payback. Who wants a 32-year payback? The fact is, the technology is not there yet. Wind farms are hurting the country.... Green energy is wonderful. It sounds great. But you need oil. You need natural gas. We have so much natural gas in this country, and we're just not allowed to go and get it. We need somebody that knows what he's doing, he or she is doing, and we need it fast because our energy policy is a total and complete disaster!
As for solar energy itself, Trump has simply dismissed it as an “unproven technology.” He states that the payback on solar is too long and does not take into account the 30% federal tax credit. Trump focuses his energy policy on the increased use of fracking and the coal.
Trump Claimed To Know A Lot About Solar And Mentioned It Was Expensive, Despite The Fact That Solar Prices Have Been Dropping Dramatically. According to Vox, “In his press conference with reporters before the speech, Trump elaborated: ‘I know a lot about solar,’ he said, ‘the problem with solar is it’s very expensive.’ He made no mention of the fact that solar prices have been dropping precipitously.” [Vox, 5/26/16]
Trump mentioned the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra in the first Presidential debate. Solyndra is the solar panel manufacturer that took a loan from the federal government and eventually went bankrupt. Trump called the investment in Solyndra a "disaster."
Trump even states further, "My Energy Plan – Powered By 'Beautiful, Clean Coal' – Will Make Your Energy Bill Much Less Expensive … Hillary Clinton’s Anti-Energy Agenda Is A Massive Tax On The Poor.”
While campaigning in Fredericksburg, Virginia in August, Trump said, “According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States has the largest recoverable coal resources in the world. We’re talking clean coal – beautiful, clean coal … Over 90 percent of U.S. coal is used for electricity. In other words, my plan will make your energy bill much less expensive – much, much cheaper. Hillary Clinton’s anti-energy agenda is a massive tax on the poor.”
Trump has vowed not to honor the Paris Climate talks. He even expressed his views on global warming by when he once tweeted the following:
In short, Trump has not shown himself to be an advocate of the solar industry. Even still, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans working in solar. The industry is growing at a tremendous rate. Beyond all else, Trump is a business man. It is our contention that Trump will not seek to get rid of the 30% Federal Tax Credit or to limit the growth of an industry that has hit critical mass in terms of adoption rates around the world.
Hillary Clinton's Views on Solar
Candidate Clinton looks at the adoption of the solar industry in terms of two main points. The first is that climate change is real and is backed by irrefutable scientific proof. The second point she makes is that renewable energy is one of the major economic forces of the modern economy. Some country is going to be the leader in the renewable energy sector and it might as well be the United States of America.
Clinton wants to generate enough renewable energy over the next ten years to power every American home with clean energy. Currently, the forecast for America is the installation of 100 GW of solar by 2020. Clinton wants the adoption of solar to be 140 GW.
Where is that 40 GW of solar going to come from? Well, a great deal of it is going to be in the form of a Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities. The amount of the Challenge grants would be $60 Billion and would help to accelerate the deployment of clean power, including solar.
Candidate Clinton would also abide by the Paris Climate Change talks of December, 2015, making the reduction of harmful gas emissions a cornerstone of her presidency.
We here at YellowLite do not advocate on behalf of any candidate or political party. We do, however, advocate on behalf of the solar industry at large. Hillary Clinton has some lofty goals for solar. Solar energy would seem to be a priority with her. However, her ability to enact policies that would increase solar energy adoption seem to be also dependent to a great extent on her ability to pass her program through what is now a Republican-controlled Congress. Meanwhile, Donald Trump would seem to favor fossil fuel energy production and have no plans to help the solar industry.
It is the opinion of YellowLite that if elected, Trump would see the solar industry as a driver of economic growth and at the very least would not interfere with our industry's progress if elected. He would most likely allow the 30% Federal Tax Credit to continue unabated and offer moderate amounts of support to a technology that is proving itself indispensible to the world's energy future. It can also be stated the Clinton has the more progressive policy on solar adoption and tremendous growth would occur if her plan to issue Challenge grants of $60 Billion is pursued.