Media Seeks Institute Expertise to Navigate Solar Policy Uncertainty

April 03, 2017

With so much uncertainty related to the new Administration, the Solar Institute has also expanded its role providing objective political and policy analysis to the media and speaking at public forums like energy industry conferences.

Reporters value the Institute’s intricate knowledge of federal energy policy and budgeting and connections to influential stakeholders and have increasingly been turning to Institute staff for both on or off the record sources of unbiased information.

Since the November elections a number of prominent news outlets have written articles speculating on the impact that the incoming Trump Administration’s pro-fossil fuel policies would have on U.S. solar energy growth and Director Ronen has been quoted in two dozen news outlets as diverse as the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, The New Republic, Scientific American, and PV Tech (although not exclusively about Administration energy policies). He has also been interviewed by two live radio shows and spoken at several conferences. 

Some recent examples from last week include: 

I think a lot of the industry is frustrated right now," said Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute in Washington "These investments, utility-scale investments, especially the very large [solar] arrays in the desert, are multibillion-dollar facilities. But it's hard to imagine a lot of that coming up again anytime soon because of the uncertainty and the clear bias for other uses of the areas.

The Clean Power Plan played an important role in getting utilities to give renewables a chance and find out that they were affordable sources of new generating capacity.  And now that realization is out there…spiking the Clean Power Plan or trying to promote unsustainable policies is not going to change that,” George Washington Solar Institute director Amit Ronen told PV Tech. 

“It would have mattered a lot more three, four, or five years ago, but the clean energy train has left the station and the market is going to decide that clean energy is our nation’s future, not fossil fuels.  

“As much as they try, the clean energy haters in the Trump Administration can’t take away the reality that solar and wind are now in many cases producing power even cheaper than fossil fuels, even with rock-bottom natural gas prices in the US,” he added.

Not everyone believes the Paris agreement will be completely ruined if the U.S. doesn’t meet its commitments. Amit Ronen, the director of George Washington University’s Solar Institute, noted that other countries are already proceeding full-force, despite indications from Trump that he won’t follow through. China, for instance, appears to be taking the agreement as an economic opportunity to become a global leader in creating renewable energy jobs and scaling back on coal.

In the best-case scenario, Ronen said, Trump’s order wouldn’t doom the Paris agreement—just isolate the U.S. “It’s just missing out at an incredible opportunity in terms of economic opportunity, leadership in the world,” he said. “It’s just a shame.”

"While President Trump's budget proposal does not specify what funding levels they would like to see for the Energy Department's solar program, its drastic cuts to federal initiatives supporting clean energy and environmental protection leave little doubt that he would like to end any marketplace competition with fossil fuels," Ronen said.