A win for Donald Trump in the presidential election would see the US “forfeit four more years” in the climate fight, while a Joe Biden victory could unleash a multi-trillion-dollar clean-energy boom that makes America a global leader again, claimed research group Wood Mackenzie
A chance for Democrat Biden to implement his 'Build Back Better' energy transition plan would spark a $2.2 trillion investment in renewables and energy storage to 2035 as part of a plan to decarbonise the US power system by then, with utility solar demand alone topping 100GW annually, according to Wood Mackenzie’s analysts.
The Biden plan would require 1.5TW of renewable capacity deployment in 15 years and “shake up the hierarchy of the energy industry and turn the power market on its head”, said research director Dan Shreve.
“Biden’s plan teeters between achievable and aspirational but the backing of energy sector giants could tip the balance and once again establish the US as a leader in the fight against climate change”, Shreve added.
Biden and Trump are involved in a closely-fought US election contest in which energy policy is just one of many issues polarising the Democrat and Republican sides.
Wood Mackenzie reckons: “If Biden's bid fails, the US will forfeit four more years in the fight against climate change. This would dramatically reduce the possibility of eliminating carbon emissions from the region’s power grid before 2050.”
Biden’s plan was hailed by the US renewable energy sector when he unveiled it in July with a pledge to spark installation of millions of solar modules and tens of thousands of wind turbines on land and offshore during a first four-year term.
Wood Mackenzie said the ambitions of the former vice-president would see big changes in the US renewables sector. “Most production in the US is focused on assembly, with structural components and equipment imported from countries where manufacturing costs are low. But to satisfy Biden’s potential 'Made in America' requirements, domestic wind, solar and storage would need to expand rapidly,” said Shreve.
Incumbent Trump has been famously sceptical of climate change, renewables and wind power in particular throughout his current term – although the US onshore wind sector has managed to turn in record years under his presidency thanks to the favourable conditions created by federal tax incentives voted for by Congress, while its offshore industry has laid the foundations for steep growth this decade.
Trump has also been vocal in his support for America’s huge fossil fuel industry – although Biden has also in recent days caused confusion over his stand on fracking – which Wood Mackenzie warned would need to not rely too completely on carbon capture and storage as the answer to its energy transition dilemmas.
“The oil and gas sector must carefully hedge against a failure of the carbon capture, utilisation and storage market to reach commercialisation. Failure to engage now may result in surrendering market position to a burgeoning club of energy majors in a zero-carbon future,” said Shreve.
“Natural gas will drive around 40% of US power generation this year, consuming 33% of domestic gas supply. Consequently, maintaining a presence in the US power sector is important to both gas suppliers and generators.
“Partnerships and acquisitions of upstart storage providers, renewable energy developers and green hydrogen technology suppliers must all be on the table,” added Shreve.