The US renewable energy industry is arguing that it can offer rural areas an economic boost along with the coal industry, in the face of President Trump’s pro-coal agenda. Wind-farm developers and suppliers employed over 100,000 workers at the end of 2016, while solar power employed twice that number. The coal industry, touted by Trump as a way to provide jobs to ailing rural communities, employed 65,971 workers at the beginning of last year. Both wind and solar employ a significant number of workers in states that voted for Donald Trump in last year’s election.
According to Abigail Hopper, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), argues that the growth of renewable energy is not a primary factor in the decline of the coal industry.
“I reject the idea that there has to be a winner and a loser,” Hopper said. “These are good paying, local jobs that the solar industry is creating everywhere.”
Hooper is calling on the Trump administration to continue policies that support the solar energy industry, credited with the creation of 200,000 jobs in the past decade.
“They did it for economic reasons, for consumer choice and for energy independence. These are all things that conservatives support.”
Hopper joined the SEIA this month after leaving her role as director of the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
According to American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan, the top 10 congressional districts for wind power are all located in predominantly red states such as Iowa and Texas.
The Bloomberg Global Large Solar Energy index has fallen nearly 13 percent since the election, with 6.7 percent gain in the broader S&P 500 index.
“We’re hiring workers in the rust belt. We’re helping families keep farms they’ve held for generations. The lifeblood of our industry is in rural America.”
Executives such as Kiernan and Hopper are hoping the president and his apparently fossil-fuel friendly administration will maintain two important federal tax credits, both of which were granted an extension by the Republican controlled congress in 2015. Trump’s selection for Energy Secretary, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, supported the growth of wind power in his state, which is now the largest producer of wind power.
With these tax credits still in place, wind developers expect to draw 60 billion dollars in private investment in the coming years, and to double the amount of power output from 5 percent of total power generated to 10 percent.