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Green Energy Carried 2016. Will It Do the Same in 2017 Under Trump?

Wind and solar energy are expected to account for more than half of the 24 gigawatts of new generation that fed into the power grid in 2016, the Energy Information Administration reports. That marks three years running. Can it hold during the Trump administration?

The momentum is attributed to in large part because the tax breaks granted to wind and solar had been extended at the end of 2015 and have been scheduled to end in 2019 and 2022, respectfully. It is a serious policy question as to whether those tax breaks will continue beyond that. Until then, though, the race to erect more wind and solar will go on.

The EIA says nearly 60% of the renewable additions were supposed to come online during the fourth quarter of 2016. “Renewable capacity additions are often highest in the final months of the year, in part, because of timing qualifications for federal, state, or local tax incentives,” the release says.

Monthly U.S. renewable electricity generation peaked in March, the EIA says, because of high precipitation and melting snow that led to more use of hydroelectricity generation. There was also strong wind resources that month.

“Most renewable generation comes from the Western census division, which accounted for the majority of the hydroelectric (63%) and solar (77%) generation in the United States in 2016. Wind generation was more evenly spread across the country with 37% occurring in the Midwest, 35% in the South, 24% in the West, and the remaining 4% in the Northeast,” the release says.

The agency also looks at distributed small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) (one megawatt or less) capacity and generation. As of October 2016, the United States had a total of 12.6 GW of small-scale solar PV installed, it says. “Of this capacity, 56% was in the residential sector, 36% in the commercial sector, and 8% in the industrial sector. Monthly generation from small-scale solar PV peaked in July at 2.1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh).”

If the Clean Power Plan is nullified, would this impact the implementation of renewables going forward? The Trump administration will do what it can to weaken this carbon-cutting plan, says Merrill Kramer, chair of the sustainable energy practice at Sullivan & Worcester. But “the movement to renewables has already “left the station.”  

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