The future of renewables in the United States is grim according to social media and a good part of the mainstream media. These days, all we hear are alarming messages because the people that have been nominated by President -Elect Donald Trump to lead the departments of Energy and Environment, as well as other staff members are said to be convinced climate skeptics. And of course, this is a source of uncertainty and anxiety for environmental groups, sustainable development advocates and all the actors in the Renewable Energy Industry.
Without taking sides in a very political discussion, I believe the future is not as dark and uncertain as some would want us to think. Even the biggest climate skeptics have strong and compelling reasons why they will continue to develop renewable energy projects. And it looks like the Renewable Energy Industry is also leaning towards that idea. For the first time. during these 2016 elections the donations from the Wind and Solar Industry to the Republican Party exceeded their donations to the Democrats. They certainly hope that this will bring them congressional support from both Democrats and Republicans, especially from Republicans in States where wind and solar represent an important industry and source of income.
Donald Trump has based his entire campaign on making a better and stronger America "Let's make America great again". Whether he likes or not the sight of solar panels and wind turbines, whether he wants to increase support to the oil, gas and coal industry, in order to succeed Renewable Energy will have to be and remain an important part of his plan.
1. Homeland Security and Energy Independence:
More and more Americans, regardless whether they believe or not that we are going through a human-induced global warming and climate change, support Renewable Energy. In fact they support all forms of homegrown energy - and renewables are an important player in that mix- because they are convinced that this will improve their National Security and positively influence their international policy in the long term. Not to mention that Energy independence and Renewables in particular will help the economy and contribute to considerable job creation.
2. The Renewable Energy industry is an important job generator.
The latest available data from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) showed that in 2011, latest numbers available before the elimination of Green career program, the U.S. counted more than 3.4 million green jobs. In view of the job creation and growth across the industry, one can estimate that current numbers exceed 5 million jobs. Most of these are good-paying jobs for skilled technicians, engineers, scientists, contractors, component manufacturers, etc.
One of the fastest-growing professions in America is the profession of skilled wind technician. One should not be surprised to find out that currently, the wind and solar industry account for close to 400 000 direct jobs. And Hydropower also represents another 300 to 400 hundred thousand jobs. Then you have all the other renewable energy sources : Geothermal, Wave and Ocean Power, Biomass, Waste-to-Energy, Fuel Cells, Biofuels and Biogas. All of them together also represent important numbers of jobs.
And then you have all the indirect jobs across all industries that can continue to grow and secure their future through diversification. The manufacturer of nuts and bolts who decided to include nuts and bolts for the wind industry in his catalogue, the farmer who will be able to sell some of his crops for biofuels, the welder who also started to weld frames for PV panels. Not only do they create jobs, but they help the economy grow.
3. Renewable Energy Industry contributes to more stability in the economy.
Besides the obvious benefits for the national economy through job creation and diversification or reconversion for certain manufacturers and industries, renewable energy plays a stabilizing role that is important in long-term forecasting and policies.
Like other commodities, the laws of supply and demand and futures contracts cause oil and gas prices to fluctuate. In addition to these regular mechanisms, oil and gas prices are also influenced by speculation, natural disasters and political instability. And these fluctuations are extremely important, especially when it comes to mid- and long-term planning of the economy.
In terms of power production, this means that for gas-fired power plants, coal or diesel power generation plants, the production cost per kWh will vary considerably.
Some renewable energy sources like biogas and biofuels or biomass will also be depending on commodity prices but are less prone to huge fluctuations caused by speculation or political instability.
The other renewable energy sources: wind, solar, geothermal, waves and hydro are provided by nature. Until today we do not pay for rain, wind, sunshine, oceans or earth heat, therefore they are not subject to the market laws or speculation. In effect this means that the cost per kWh as defined during the design of the project, will remain stable for the lifetime of the project.
This stability is very important and beneficial in the long-term planning for energy-intensive industries and economic development plans of regions and countries.
Renewable Energy is and will remain an interesting and attractive asset for businesses and industries, politicians and citizens all over the world, regardless of their political convictions, color or economic system as renewables are contributing to increased homeland security and energetic independence, creating numerous direct and indirect job opportunities and contribute to economic stability and diversification.