January 12, 2018 Read More →

Ex-Coal Exec Says Solar Is the Future of Energy

Time:

Jim Lamon is the kind of businessman that Donald Trump would like. And Lamon is the kind of businessman who likes Trump. The CEO of Depcom Power grew up in Alabama, served in the Air Force for six years and spent decades constructing the kinds of coal-fired power plants Trump likes to tout. He’s contributed thousands of dollars to Republican causes, including Trump’s victory fund.

But a few years ago, Lamon saw that coal’s future was bleak, and he switched to building solar power plants. Now he’s worried that a pending decision by Trump will imperil his business. The Trump Administration is weighing a tariff on solar panel imports — essentially taxing them more than panels made in the U.S. — a move that analysts say could abruptly raise the price of building new solar power plants in the U.S., potentially killing a rapidly growing industry that primarily employs blue collar workers.

That would hit Lamon — and his employees — hard. Depcom Power employs more than 1,600 people designing, building and operating solar farms with projects spread across the country from blue states like California to red states like Mississippi.

Trump’s disdain for renewable energy sources was no secret during his campaign for president — the candidate spoke on several occasions about energy saying solar was “not working so good” and wind power “kills all your birds” — but Lamon believed that low-cost solar would continue to serve as a more affordable energy source than coal and often natural gas no matter what came policy emerged from the White House. Indeed, that’s why he began building solar power plants in the first place. Without subsidies, electricity from large-scale solar power plants currently costs about a third the cost of coal and is about even with natural gas, according to data from the financial advisory firm Lazard. It’s even cheaper with subsidies. But a tariff changes the numbers in ways that Lamon could not have anticipated.

The Trump Administration has until Jan. 26 to decide on a solution, and all indicators suggest the president favors a tariff. Throughout his campaign and presidency, he has promised to crack down on China, sought to revive coal and touted his desire to restore U.S. manufacturing. A solar tariff can achieve all of those objectives, or at the very least Trump can argue that it does.

Lamon, whose company has lobbied the Trump administration, says he thinks the jobs message is resonating in the White House. “They’re all listening,” he says of top officials. “We want American energy dominance,” says Lamon, borrowing a phrase from Trump. But “when the facts are laid out, it’s kind of comes to light why coal is not coming back.”

More: http://time.com/5084108/solar-energy-tariff/

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