President Barack Obama just published an opinion piece in the journal Science, writing that the “trend toward clean energy is irreversible” – in other words, the transition to a low-carbon economy is Donald Trump-proof. The President-elect is skeptical of both climate change and clean energy and has nominated cabinet officials with similar views. However, Obama gives four reasons why he believes that renewables will continue to increase regardless of who sits in the Oval Office: the decoupling of emissions and economic growth, the private sector’s embrace of emissions reductions, the market moving toward cleaner electricity, and global momentum for climate action.
“Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States and that continued participation in the Paris process will yield great benefit for the American people, as well as the international community,” Obama writes. “Prudent U.S. policy over the next several decades would prioritize, among other actions, decarbonizing the U.S. energy system, storing carbon and reducing emissions within U.S. lands, and reducing non-CO2 emissions.”
When Trump is sworn into office on Jan. 20 he will inherit a booming domestic clean energy sector. Renewables accounted for a majority (50.5 percent) of new US electrical generation put into service in the first 11 months of 2016, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) monthly Energy Infrastructure Update. Solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass and other renewables beat out natural gas, nuclear power, coal and oil combined with 9,655 megawatts of newly installed capacity.
Trump will also be in the driver’s seat in the global clean energy race and the competition is fierce as China makes massive investments in renewables that are starting to pay off. China increased its foreign investment in clean energy by 60 percent to reach a record $32 billion, according to a new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. If Trump spurns investments in clean energy, China and the rest of the world could be looking at the US in the rear view mirror as they race toward a future powered by renewables.