Widespread and growing support for Rooftop Solar - A bi-partisan issue

Solar energy and other renewable energy sources experienced a renaissance during the Obama presidency as significant federal and state funds were budgeted and allocated to support their development and use. In the 2016 Federal budget, solar and other renewable energy sources received an investment windfall as a minimum of $40 billion up to $130 billion of investment through 2020 will be directly attributable to the passage of this budget. If the tax credits and other solar subsidies are left intact, the expectation is that nearly 100 cumulative gigawatts of solar installations will come online by 2020. This budget passed with significant bi-partisan support showing a high level of support for rooftop solar and other forms of solar energy.

American support for solar energy

One of the issues that Trump will have to navigate is the wide support for solar energy among both political parties as well as independents. In a 2015 Gallup poll only solar energy registered an increase in support from 2013 on emphasizing the preferred method of domestic energy production. This support spanned from 70% of Republicans to 82% and 83% of independents and Democrats respectively. In fact, a March 2016 Gallup poll showed that, for the first time, a majority of Republicans supported alternative energy over fossil fuel sources.

With a majority of his party backing alternative energy sources, it is likely that Trump will be unable to roll back the solar and renewable tax credits in their entirety. However, the possibility exists that solar and wind energy are treated differently under a Trump administration as solar energy becomes the renewable energy of choice. This preference has already manifested itself in many other places in the world, most specifically in Australia where the decision was made to all but kill the wind industry in favor of solar energy. A recent study showing a significantly higher number of bald eagles killed by wind farms is only creating more headwinds for wind energy. Since solar energy is second only to nuclear energy in low/zero-emission energy production, it is likely that support for solar energy will remain high among both parties.

Expected policy changes

Given Trump's long history as a largely successful businessman, there will likely be changes in renewable energy policy as struggling solar and wind companies will no longer be funded for prolonged periods of time. Certainly, one would not expect a Trump administration to funnel huge amounts of money approaching almost $1 billion to prop up an insolvent renewable energy company as in the case of Solyndra. However, there are many solar energy companies that are not only profitable but are increasing efficiency significantly. This is demonstrated by Sunrun the nation's premiere rooftop solar company installing over 65 megawatts in the second quarter of 2018 with its stock price jumping 15% on the news. President-elect Trump has shown a long history of investing in successful enterprises and cutting his losses on failing ones so tax credits and other benefits should survive and be available for these companies.

In addition to the expected survival in some form of the renewable energy credits, there will be some sort of subsidy provided to the coal industry as well. This subsidy may stabilize the coal industry to some extent but with Canada and many of the industrialized nations reducing their coal consumption, the long-term prognosis for coal is bleak. Instead, a mixture of solar, oil/natural gas and nuclear will ultimately form the backbone of America's energy policy going forward. In a decade or two, rooftop solar will be as common as hybrid and energy-efficient cars are today.

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