July 27, 2018 Read More →

Trump trade policies won’t stop U.S. renewable energy growth experts say

S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

The multi-front trade war being waged by the U.S. ranks as the most significant policy challenge for the country’s renewable energy industry under the Trump administration, according to industry insiders including Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners K/S Executive Director Will Demas.

Since imposing duties on foreign-made solar cells and panels in January, President Donald Trump has levied tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and is considering taxes on power electronics used in solar arrays as part of a broader package of import restrictions on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

“It’s definitely not background noise,” Demas, whose Danish firm is a part-owner of the Vineyard Offshore Wind Project in the U.S., said of the escalating trade feud on a July 25 conference call organized by the American Council on Renewable Energy. “I think there will be some slowdown as projects have to find new ways to become economic.”

Jonathan Yellen, a managing director at Mizuho Americas LLC, agreed that rising trade tensions are a “real concern” for the cost of renewable energy projects in the U.S. and the availability of capital. However, investors in Asia “are taking a little bit of a longer-term view and I think would expect that things are going to sort themselves out, notwithstanding choppiness in the near term,” said Yellen, whose firm is a subsidiary of Japan-headquartered Mizuho Bank Ltd.

Tensions between the U.S. and its trading partners are rising at a time when foreign investment is providing a boost to America’s renewable energy industry, investors say, helping to push up clean energy investment in the U.S. to $28.8 billion in the first half of 2018, 31% over the first six months of 2017, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The surge is happening despite the Trump administration’s determination to prop up uneconomic coal-fired power plants rather than advancing cleaner alternatives.

“My impression is that people here … are not looking at the U.S. because they expect lots of favorable policies,” said Chris Archer, head of green energy in the Americas at Macquarie Capital (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of Australia-headquartered Macquarie Group Ltd. Instead, “they just see a huge opportunity irrespective of the details of the policy.” The Trump administration is unlikely to implement policies “that will be enough to stop the [renewable energy] industry in the U.S.,” he added.

More ($): Trade fights could dampen US clean-energy enthusiasm, but not kill it

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