Source: The Daily Beast 'Donald Trump Hates Windmills More Than Hilary Clinton'. 8 May 2016

Source: The Daily Beast 'Donald Trump Hates Windmills More Than Hilary Clinton'. 8 May 2016

Trump's energy manifesto (such as it is) promises an energy revolution through unleashing "America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves". This vision will be helped on its way by getting rid of any pesky regulations - environmental or otherwise.  That's just a taste of the negatives. On the positive side..

His '100 day action plan' - even thought it at times sounds like a random list of empty campaign promises - does state; "From an environmental standpoint, my priorities are very simple: clean air and clean water"; "we are going to preserve our beautiful natural habitats, reserves and resources"; "we will pursue all forms of energies..including wind and solar"; and "my reform agenda is going to bring wealth and security to the poorest communities in this country".

Nonetheless Trump's plans for wind (and solar) energy remain unclear. Certainly Trump has previously been scathing of wind turbines - most notably as they affect his golf course. He also believes climate change is a hoax. These two facts alone might reasonably cause concern for anyone in the wind industry. This lack of clarity has rattled markets: the shares of one of the World's largest wind companies (Vestas) plunged 8 percent overnight Tuesday. One wonders, however, whether such fears are overblown (groan).

The reality is wind (& solar) are now very competitively priced, they generate huge numbers of jobs and massive wealth for rural communities across North America. They also represent a source of electricity produced within US borders. All of these are features which, at least theoretically, score major brownie points in Trump-land. 

More importantly; a quick look at the election results indicates Trump would be shooting himself in the foot if he set out to crush the wind industry. Three points of note;

The five largest wind states all voted Republican

Source: Wind data - US Energy Information Administration. Voting data - CNN Politics 2016 Election Results

This chart combines the electricity generated by wind energy with the results from Tuesday's election - showing the percentage of the vote, by state, which went to each of Trump and Clinton.

It shows the top five US wind states  (Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and North Dakota) also voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

Correlation is not causality; however it is nonetheless interesting to note a clear inverse correlation between the percentage of the vote secured by Democrats vs. the amount of electricity generated by wind in these five states.

Also of note: of the ten Senators representing these five states, only one is a Democrat. That would be Sen. Heidi Heitkamp: she represents North Dakota which, as it would happen, is also the lowest user of wind energy amongst the five.  

Republican states generate 68 percent of all US wind energy

This one is even more revealing. It shows similar data as the last chart but for all US states which generate at least some of their electricity using wind turbines. Surprisingly (for some) it reveals that 68% of all US wind-generated electricity is produced within Republican states.

Source: Wind data - US Energy Information Administration. Voting data - CNN Politics 2016 Election Results

Bipartisan support for Production Tax Credit (PTC) extension

Trump's energy manifesto appears much more focused on getting rid of any potential obstacles to oil, gas and coal rather than restricting wind energy.

Some are nonetheless concerned about the status of the US Production Tax Credit (PTC): a tax credit which is currently worth 2.3 US cents per kilowatt hour of electricity generated by wind energy. The FY16 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, passed on December 18, 2015, included a five-year extension and phase-down. The PTC will be worth full value (100 percent) for projects started in 2015 & 2016, 80 percent in 2017, 60 percent in 2018 and 40 percent in 2019.

The Bill was passed with a strong bipartisan vote in both the House (316-113) and the Senate (65-33). This, coupled with the previous data showing the amount of wind energy generated by Republican states and also given that the PTC is anyway being phased out through to 2020; makes it unlikely Trump will seek to roll-back the 2015 PTC extension.   

 

 

In short: wind enjoys enormous support in Republican dominated states, is already cost competitive with natural gas and benefits from a bipartisan tax credit which is anyway being phased out over the term of the Trump administration. Our initial take is, therefore, it is unlikely wind energy will suffer under the Donald; indeed, it may even enjoy modest support. Stranger things have happened..


Posted
AuthorJames Glennie