November 2, 2016 Read More →

Two Candidates for President, Two Views of Future Electricity Generation in the U.S.

Molly Christian, Jasmin Melvin and Jonathan Nelson for SNL Beta:

The most notable difference in the likely path of the U.S. electricity generation fleet if Clinton or Trump successfully implements their policies is the growth of renewables, particularly solar in the short term. The two candidates also diverge on the issue of climate change, which has repercussions for the future of coal generation in America.

To trim U.S. emissions, Clinton wants to continue to transition from coal, use natural gas as a bridge fuel and aggressively build out renewable generation.

Under Clinton’s plans, renewable generation would account for 33% of U.S. power by 2027. Her call for the installation of 500 million solar panels would drive about a 274% increase in solar capacity from 2017 to 2020, according to Platts Analytics’ Bentek Energy estimates.

With her goal, estimated solar capacity in 2020 could be as high as 154 GW. In September, total installed solar capacity from both rooftop and utility-scale projects was at roughly 31.6 GW, according to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, a U.S. solar energy trade group. Even with wind capacity also growing by about 41% during that period, solar capacity would exceed that of wind by the end of her first term by about 9.3 GW.

Assuming flat load and similar capacity factors to current technology, generating 33% of U.S. power by 2027 would require roughly 506 GW of combined wind and solar, representing over a four-fold increase from current levels.

Under Trump, the coal industry would gain an ally, while renewables would grow modestly, but perhaps without as much federal support. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, would work to repeal regulations on the fossil fuel industry and he could seek to repeal the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit and Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit, which are both on a glide path to lower incentive levels by the 2019-2020 time period.

Combined solar and wind capacity would grow by an estimated 46% under Trump, largely driven by the current pipeline of projects in development still coming to fruition. By 2020, Platts Analytics expects solar capacity to increase by nearly 20 GW, or 60%, from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2020. Similar to the Clinton scenario, wind capacity is projected to grow by about 42 GW, or 41% over the same period.

Growth for these resources would be driven by the proliferation of state-level renewable portfolio standards as well as continued technology cost declines.

With state-level mandates and cost decline, renewable market share could still reach upwards of 21% by 2027, about 8 percentage points higher than 2016 levels.

Regardless of the candidate, energy experts agree that coal’s market share is likely to continue to shrink because of competition from cheap natural gas and renewables.

Full article (with charts): Clinton vs. Trump: In energy, the stakes are high for renewables, coal

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