Donald Trump betrays total ignorance of solar, energy market dynamics

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Trump says solar is expensive and has 30-year payback time: “All I’m going to do is free up the coal,” he said in first major energy speech.

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PV Magazine

In his first speech regarding energy, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump repeated a number of myths about renewable energy and showed no real understanding of energy market dynamics in general.

Donald Trump has shown a preference for domestic extraction and use of fossil fuels.
Donald Trump has shown a preference for domestic extraction and use of fossil fuels.

Donald Trump is a notoriously hard politician to pin down on concrete policy proposals. His rise to the Republican Party appears to be based largely on personality and media presence, mixed with his ability to tap into American nationalism and concerns about immigration.

Energy has been no different, and there is no section on energy in the brief “Positions” section of Trump’s campaign website.

Trump’s first speech on energy also did not result in a coherent policy platform in this regard, but did solidify his preference for production of energy from domestically sourced fossil fuels, particularly a desire to expand oil and gas extraction and to bring back coal mining and increase electricity generation from coal – while at the same time appealing to the market.

“The market forces are going to do whatever they do,” stated Trump. “All I’m going to do is free up the coal.”

However, Trump’s promise to bring back coal jobs flies directly in the face of those very market forces, which have seen a flat-lining of global coal demand, a collapse in prices and the largest coal miners go out of business.

Trump also did not hesitate to completely mischaracterize the policy positions of his opponent Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration, stating that President Obama and Hillary Clinton were going to “ban fracking”. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has increased dramatically under the Obama Administration, and as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promoted the extraction method globally.

In the press conference before the speech, Trump also repeated myths that show an extremely outdated understanding of renewable energy. Despite his statement that “I know a lot about solar”, Trump revived the old canard that solar and wind are “very expensive”, and estimated a 30-year payback time.

In the last few years the United States has seen contract prices for large-scale solar fall to between four and five U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour. In 2015 GTM Research documented more than 5 gigawatts of contracts signed by companies outside of state renewable energy mandates, for economic reasons.

Wind prices have become even cheaper, with Lawrence Berkeley Labs finding that wind contract prices have fallen to below 2.5 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour.

And while the time that it takes to pay off an individual home solar PV system involves a number of variables, a recent study by solar marketplace provider EnergySage found that residential customers who used its service recovered the investments they made in PV systems in an average of 7.5 years, not 30.



Trump’s utter ignorance of energy issues was noted by leading political figures. During the speech, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune tweeted that “There are open pools of oil and drilling wastewater in ND right now that are deeper than Trump’s understanding of energy issues”.

This article was originally published on PV Magazine. Re-produced with permission.

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10 Comments
  1. Mark Potochnik 3 years ago

    While coal is dying, he could be GIVING solar tech to China…

  2. howardpatr 3 years ago

    Trump, the man acting like Australia’s own version of the Tea Party, Cayman Turnbull, does not want to be offended.

    Trump is a fraudulent white collar criminal who has now been exposed in the following article:-

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/25/exclusive-donald-trump-signed-off-deal-designed-to-deprive-us-of/

    Perhaps, by the close of the election campaign Cayman Turnbull will have done what Trump has recently done and call for the Paris Agreement to be thrown out?

  3. MaxG 3 years ago

    I mean seriously: these neoliberals are committing crimes against humanity — and I at least hope the future will see them in this light. I am lost for words… but it also demonstrates the collective stupidity of the American as well as the Australian people to (as a majority) vote for these old farts of the last decades. Vote ’em out!

    • Moneyandworktime 3 years ago

      Crimes against humanity….you mean like further digging and burning fossil fuels which increase climate risks see Superstorm Sandy, acidification of our collective oceans from industrial carbon, water insecurity look at California and Syria, air pollution look at our cities Beijing and LA.

      The best way to help all of humanity is to leap frog dirty energy into efficiency and modern renewables. Take for instance a small home and insulate the attic then install a solar house heater. Simple and cheap technology. Now they are warm and can be creative, finish school, find a job, take care of their family because they are not freezing. How many citizens would pay for this for their homes? How many jobs did I just create?

  4. Ian 3 years ago

    A Wally to lead a land of Wallies.

    A bit scary when he would wield a $500 billion a year gun at his hip. Imagine all the ‘shirt fronting he could do’

  5. Moneyandworktime 3 years ago

    Silly season indeed! Modern renewables are the fastest, cheapest and cleanest new forms of electricity for modern commerce, business and home owners. New solar is now 5 cents a kilowatt hour and new wind is now 2.5 cents a kilowatt hour sold to competitive US utilities. Combine this with R80 attic insulation and solar house heaters for 160 F of free heat and our communities will become smarter, richer, cleaner and greatly more comfortable with its citizens controlling more of their own energy.

  6. Pfitzy 3 years ago

    Wasn’t he speaking at an oil convention? Let’s not forget Drumpf’s penchant for saying whatever the audience wants to hear.

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      Well lets hope Trump gets trumpt.

      • Pfitzy 3 years ago

        Or turns up to a renewables rally and starts praising solar panels just because he’ll get a cheer. 🙂

        Total media whore…

  7. solarguy 3 years ago

    Well hell, why am I surprised. Dumb Yankees!

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