Wind braced for US election result

Wind braced for US election result


November 1, 2016

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Just one week to go. Next week, we will find out to whom Barack Obama will pass the US presidency: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

The decision that the American people take on 8 November will have major consequences for the energy sector. The next president will have to decide whether to honour the Paris climate change agreement, and take a stance on issues including the coal industry, controversial pipelines and renewables including wind.

And the two candidates have completely different opinions.

Clinton has pledged that, under her leadership, the US would be able to generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America within ten years. Trump would rather rescind the Clean Power Plan, cancel the 2015 Paris climate change agreement and stop US money going to UN global warming programs.

On that basis, we have to say that the wind industry’s future looks brighter under Clinton – but, with this week’s intervention by the FBI, it will be a close call and the world could easily be heading into 2017 with a President Trump.

Yet despite this political uncertainty, the US wind sector looks very promising.

Wind’s share of total US electricity generation has risen every year since 2001, reaching 4.7% of net electric power generation in 2015, a recent study released by the US Energy Information Administration has shown. Wind’s generation share almost doubled since 2010, when it was just 2.3%. Monthly data through July also revealed that wind has provided 5.6% of US generation so far in 2016.

And that figure looks set to grow even further.

According to a quarterly report by the American Wind Energy Association published in October, the size of projects under construction rose almost to record levels in the third quarter this year. There is now 13.6GW of capacity under construction, and at least one-third of this power is being bought by non-utility buyers including Johnson & Johnson, Amazon and Target, which shows the increasing interest in the sector from corporate buyers who want energy security and guaranteed power prices.

Overall, the US wind industry had capacity totalling 74GW at the end of 2015, and this is set to exceed 100GW by 2018. Falling costs of wind power and the extension of the expiration day of the federal renewable electricity production tax credit will both play key roles in this growth.

Companies will play a vital role here, but we should not ignore the fact that support of the government might be essential then to keep sustained the growth of the sector, especially now that an increasing number of investors got their eyes on it.

Will that support be there? That is in the hands of President Clinton or President Trump.

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