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Trump withdrawal from Paris wouldn’t halt ‘tremendous push’ for clean energy in US

Even if the US withdraws from the Paris Agreement on climate change, economics and popular support for clean energy mean the industry will not lose its momentum, the chief commercial officer of Younicos has said.

President Donald Trump is expected to make an announcement later today on whether the US will remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, at 3pm local time (9pm CET). After a typically stream-of-consciousness series of tweets on the subject, most suffixed with the former reality TV star’s “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” slogan, as well as his “global warming is a Chinese hoax” tweet from a few years ago, speculation has been rife that Trump will pull the US out of the binding, multilateral climate initiative. Meanwhile various sources were reporting today that China and the EU, possibly with other partners, have been working behind the scenes to hammer out their own contingency plans which will maintain their clean and renewable goals.

Jayesh Goyal, CCO at energy storage system integrator and solution provider Younicos, which is a German-American company, spoke to Energy-Storage.News about this possibility at ees Europe / Intersolar Europe this morning.

Goyal is a resident of California, where the state governor and renewables proponent Jerry Brown has fiercely stated his opposition to a possible withdrawal. Goyal said that ultimately, state governments saw both economic and environmental advantages which would mean that despite a lack of commitment from the federal government above them, local administrations would push on with their clean energy ambitions.

“I think the issue really is that you have government policy on the one hand but you also have economic drivers, not just in terms of the fact that renewable energy is getting cheaper, but also many states see globally that this is a trend and they want to be a part of it and spur investment in their states to attract clean energy companies,” Goyal said.

“They are proceeding with regulations that support clean energy - plus the people definitely want it. Irrespective of whether you’re Republican or Democrat, there’s a tremendous push for clean energy. So even though at the Federal level you might see them withdraw from the agreement, at the state government or grass roots level I don’t think the commitment has changed very much. People are viewing this as good for the environment, for the economy and certainly part of a global trend.”

Deal-maker Trump may be overstating position as negotiating tactic

Goyal suggested that perhaps it was a strong-armed negotiating tactic by the self-styled ‘king of the deal’ that may be setting out a position to support some of those American industries such as coal, that have declined as clean energy economics and policy support have gone in the other direction.

“One of the things President Trump has been trying to signal is that America will always look out for its own interests first and perhaps he’s making the statement that some of these agreements may not be in the best interests of some American businesses. So it may be merely a position to take to say 'maybe we need to look at and renegotiate some of these'.

“I don’t think it’s a statement that says 'we don’t like clean energy, we’re never going to be part of the clean energy movement or we’re never going to worry about the environment'. I don’t think that was the intention… but we will have to see what the announcement will be.”

Goyal argued that states still want to attract clean energy jobs, manufacturing and the economic stimulus they provide, citing the examples of Nevada, which is expected to benefit from Tesla’s placement of the Gigafactory in the state, creating “thousands of jobs” and the fact that there are now more people employed by the US solar industry than by US coal.

Younicos' YCube commercial and industrial solution is manufactured in the US. Image: Younicos.

US 'pragmatic' enough to pursue economic benefits of clean energy

Younicos’ communications director Philip Hiersemenzel compared the US and German energy transitions and approaches to clean energy to date and similarly painted an upbeat picture.

“I would venture to say that, by now this entire renewable business is driven by economic aspects anyway to a large degree, especially in the US. What I’ve realised ever since we became a German-American company is… we have these funny ideological debates in Germany,” Hiersemenzel said.

“In Germany the energy transition was motivated politically. In the US there was always discussion about climate change, but really the main driver was the economics. That’s why you see the largest wind farms in Texas, [which is] not the most eco-aggressive state, let’s put it that way.

According to Hiersemenzel, he sees the American people as more “pragmatic” than their German counterparts, with much of the latter’s clean energy industry birthed from environmental activist movements over the past 30 years. Both Goyal and Hiersemenzel said that regulators across the US, and utilities, have already embraced clean energy in practical ways, independent of federal policy. For example, the PJM frequency regulation market has operated on a purely commercial basis for several years.

Previously, US Energy Storage Association executive director Matt Roberts told Energy-Storage.News that for energy storage, there remained "tremendous opportunities" under a Trump administration.

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