What could the solar industry expect from a Clinton Presidency?
Last week, I reported that the solar biz got no love at the Republican National Convention. Wednesday night, the Democrats gathered in Philadelphia turned their attention to energy policy as President Obama took the stage, and Hollywood icon Sigourney Weaver spoke passionately about climate change before introducing a short film by director James Cameron.
California Governor Jerry Brown came out swinging at the Republicans for their refusal to face up to the reality of climate change. In addition he touted the success of his state as a leader in clean energy production and the economic benefits that come with it. “We have solar, wind, zero-emission cars, energy efficiency, and yes, a price on carbon,” he said. “We’re proving that even with the toughest climate laws in the country, our economy in California is growing faster than almost any nation in the whole world.”
President Obama pointed out that “After decades of talk, we finally began to wean ourselves off foreign oil and doubled our production of clean energy.” This statement sent media fact checkers into a frenzy, with factcheck.org reporting that “Monthly renewable energy production has increased by about 40% from January 2009 to April 2016, far from the 100% increase Obama claimed. While it is true that wind and solar power have more than doubled since 2008 (they’ve nearly quadrupled, in fact), they represent only part of the renewable energy picture. Less than a third of renewable energy consumption in April came from wind and solar.” Hair splitting aside, Obama was correct in pointing out that electrical generation from wind and solar have more than doubled on his watch, and factcheck.org begrudgingly confirms this fact.
President Bill Clinton, Secretary Clinton’s husband and primary campaign surrogate, pointed to the candidate’s accomplishments as a global climate change negotiator. “She put climate change at the center of our foreign policy. She negotiated the first agreement ever — ever — where China and India officially committed to reduce their emissions.” This statement was essentially true, although the “agreement” was non-binding, and at the time, environmentalists panned the accord as essentially meaningless.
James Cameron’s video, “Not Reality TV” made a powerful statement, but unfortunately, even Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger and President George HW Bush, Movie stars like Don Cheadle and Pope Francis himself have not been able to sway politically motivated partisan denial in the past, and they won’t be able to now. The video was obviously intended for the audience of true believers at the DNC. To appeal to climate agnostics and deniers, the video ends with the message it should have begun with… Hillary Clinton’s voiceover stating that “Together, we can make America the world’s clean energy superpower…We can run our homes, our cars, our businesses on clean energy, and create millions of new jobs doing it.” For better or worse, THAT is the message– not the horror of climate change– that is universal. Solar is good for business, and good for jobs. “Hollywood liberals” continue to do a disservice to the solar industry by always linking it to such a partisan hot button issue. Solar is about local jobs, solar is about economic growth, solar is about cleaner air and water. These are the areas of common ground with conservatives.
Finally, on night four of the convention, it was Hillary Clinton’s turn to take the stage and officially accept the Democratic party’s nomination for president. Mrs. Clinton’s own acceptance speech covered a lot of issues, but clean energy and climate only got a passing mention. “I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs,” she said. “I’m proud that we shaped a global climate agreement – now we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves.”
For those who have been following the details of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign talking points on solar, she has laid out a plan to increase solar energy 700 percent by the end of her first term and produce enough electricity from renewable sources to power every American home within ten years of taking office. Are these goals realistic? That has yet to be seen, as campaign promises are notoriously frangible after the smoke of campaign battles have cleared.
All other issues aside and looking at the candidate strictly from the perspective of the solar industry, Hillary Clinton has been a vocal supporter of clean energy. In fact, on our Solar Tribune candidate scorecard at the outset of this election cycle, Mrs. Clinton received an A, tying for best solar record with Bernie Sanders and Chris Christie. Sadly, her republican opponent, Donald Trump has been vocally hostile to the solar industry. His disturbing lack of facts on renewable energy development and seemingly willful campaign of disinformation against clean energy and climate issues draws a clear line between the two major parties. 3rd party candidates aside, Hillary Clinton appears to be the clear choice for solar advocates in November.