On November 7th, 2020, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was declared President-Elect by major media outlets across the United States. This news put an end to an election characterized by unprecedented levels of voter and solar industry anxiety.
The candidacies and visions of Joe Biden and Donald Trump could not be more juxtaposed, demonstrating the severe degree of polarization in the United States. At the time of writing, Biden’s electoral college lead stands at 290, with an excellent chance of winning Georgia to surpass 300 electoral votes.
Biden’s popular vote lead hovers around 4.5 million, giving him more votes than any Presidential candidate in U.S history, including his former boss, President Barack Obama.
Biden’s solid victory margin grants the Democratic Party a strong mandate. This is cause to celebrate for solar, and other cleantech industries that have faced significant political opposition since Republicans gained control of the White House in 2016.
Democrats may now control the Executive Branch, but the Senate looks likely to remain in Republican hands. Flipping the Senate would require Democrats to win both of the outstanding Georgia Senate races, an unlikely feat. With Mitch McConnell securing reelection in Kentucky, his return as Senate Majority Leader is inevitable.
Republicans will likely block any signature accomplishments Biden tries to pass through the legislative branch, meaning executive orders will be a crucial tool for a Democratic administration to get things done.
Trump spent the past four years discrediting climate science, often falsely attributing extreme weather to season changes instead of anthropogenic climate change. Biden’s discourse is the opposite of Trumps’; he frequently recognized the severity of climate change during his candidacy. His platform also featured a slew of cleantech-boosting policies that made his Democratic Party the clear favourite among clean energy professionals.
Biden has committed to ensuring the American economy reaches net-zero emissions and runs on 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
To achieve this, the Democratic platform intends to increase fossil fuel production costs while decreasing solar, and other clean energy costs, incentivizing the adaptation of private markets. Additionally, a Biden administration plans to foster international cooperation on climate change, beginning with reentering the United States in the Paris Climate Accord.
To decrease the competitiveness of fossil fuels, Biden’s platform commits to modifying resource royalties to account for the costs of climate change, in addition to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. To promote growth in renewable energy sources, Democrats have committed to “incentivizing the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations” by developing renewables on the country’s public lands, providing federal grants for cleantech innovation, and mandating reductions in climate change-causing pollution.
Biden’s platform specifically mentions investments in battery innovation, something that’s key to the success of solar energy. Improvements in battery technology could significantly reduce the logistical costs and uncertainty of intermittent energy sources, fostering a more rapid shift towards a carbon-neutral electrical grid.
Additionally, the solar investment tax credit (ITC), while not explicitly mentioned in Biden’s platform, will likely see changes. The program currently provides a 26 percent tax credit for residential or commercial solar installations but is set to wind down over the next couple of years.
Biden’s centrist roots and numerous commitments to using the private sector to foster climate action makes renewing and expanding the ITC a likely policy choice, especially as it’s garnered bipartisan support in the past. Regardless of whether or not Biden moves to modernize the ITC, solar energy will play a clear role in the electrical grids of the future that Democrats are envisioning.
The investments a Biden administration will make in combatting climate change will boost the economic prospects for professionals working in solar, and other rapidly growing cleantech industries.
Trump’s administration sought to dismantle the American clean energy market, but at last, his four years of antagonism has come to an end. Biden’s commitment to reigning in irresponsible resource exploration and internalizing the public costs of fossil fuel production will create a more efficient American economy, enabling clean energy to flourish beyond what the market has seen up to this point.
Biden has made clear that his administration will go beyond his Democratic predecessor’s environmental legacy, a tell-tale sign that an economic boom may be on the horizon for the solar industry. While many of Biden’s campaign promises may not come to fruition, it’s clear that his administration will be a friend to the industry, ushering in a new era ripe with economic potential.