Since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, there has been a lot of handwringing about the future of the solar industry given that Trump has made his support for fossil fuel industries very clear in the past. However, as far as renewable energy is concerned, the genie is out of the bottle. Solar energy in particular enjoys massive public support, gives consumers energy options beyond just their monopoly utility and, in many places, is the lowest cost option.
A large plurality of Americans support expanding the use of solar energy to power our homes and communities. In fact, 84% of Trump supporters and 91% of Clinton supporters favor installing more solar energy, according to the Pew Research Center. We have seen this same interest in solar on a local level. Sunnova offers solar to homeowners across the country at a rate cheaper than what it costs to purchase energy from their local utility and we continue to experience significant demand for our product. Regardless of their political affiliation, homeowners are interested in generating clean, cheap power from the sun and using it to power their homes and save money on their energy costs. We don’t expect that to change with the outcome of the election.
Thirty years ago, the only option consumers had for telephone service was whatever monopoly telephone company served their area. As Lily Tomlin joked on Saturday Night Live years ago, the phone company didn’t have to care about their customers because their customers had no other choice. The same is true for monopoly electric utilities today. Because they are often the only provider of electricity to customers in their service territory, they can raise rates and offer shoddy service. However, with the advent of solar and other distributed technologies, that is quickly changing. Now electricity customers, like phone customers, have a choice about where they get their energy and what they want to pay for it. We see hundreds of customers exercise that option on a daily basis. And that is not going to change regardless of who is in the White House.
Finally, we hear a lot about the demise of the coal industry. From 2010 to 2015, the U.S. lost 25,000 coal mining jobs. However, the decline of coal isn’t the result of environmental regulations, it’s the result of market forces. Namely, the fact that coal just can’t compete with cheap renewable energy and natural gas. Renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the country and is now providing the largest percentage of all new generation that comes online. In doing so, the clean energy industry is creating vast numbers of jobs and economic growth. The solar industry alone has created one out of every 80 jobs in the U.S. since 2009. And according to the National Solar Jobs Census, the number of people working in the industry is expected to more than double by 2020.
The bottom line is that people want solar energy because it makes good financial sense. Solar offers people savings on their monthly bills and gives them alternatives to their monopoly provider all while creating good jobs and economic prosperity. History has shown that consumers want more choices and better options and the electricity sector is now poised to give that to them. Consumers are demanding economic freedom. They will get that freedom to choose a better service, at a better price from their power service provider, no matter who occupies the White House. And, maybe, just maybe, the new President will increase the pace of change in the U.S. electric industry for consumers, for workers, and for our country.