While President-elect Trump’s policies are still being formed, any attempt to roll back major existing solar incentives, including the ITC and state incentives, is likely out of reach. However, his cabinet picks indicate the long-term federal policy for solar may be less rosy. A couple weeks ago Trump picked a climate skeptic and renewables opponent, Scott Pruit, to head the EPA, handing fossil fuels a likely win. At risk is Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan which set goals states were required to hit to replace fossil fuels with renewable resources including solar.
For U.S. solar this means that in the short term we likely won’t see much change, but in the long-term we could forego major state solar incentives that the EPA would otherwise have enforced to move states away from fossil fuels. Additionally, U.S. involvement in the International Paris Climate Agreement, COP21, an agreement between 175 nations to slow the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, may be in jeopardy. Trump is likely to scrap U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement, instead boosting U.S. shale oil and gas production, which are already highly incentivized.
This could mean foregoing additional incentives to solar and other renewables that could otherwise occur under the Paris Agreement and instead forcing the price of natural gas lower. Ultimately this could result in otherwise lower long-term demand for solar as more homeowners and businesses have a lower priced energy alternative: natural gas. Although cleaner than coal, which still powers most U.S. homes, natural gas doesn’t do enough to curb emissions. Solar is a major solution to our climate challenges. In 2017, however, the federal policy impacting solar will likely change little. Solar continues to have a bright future with large U.S. growth projected, and despite potential long-term solar policies impacted by any federal Administration, we in the U.S. solar community will continue to thrive and innovate, to provide jobs for thousands, grow our economy, and help turn the tide on climate change.