Renewable Energy

Despite Trump’s Coal Push, American Businesses Stick to Renewables

One thing has become clear during Donald Trump’s presidency: He’s not afraid of ruffling anyone’s feathers. His proposed steel and aluminum import tariffs are just the latest in what has been more than a year of upsetting apple carts.

In many cases, he could not care less about the opinion of corporate America. His views on coal and climate change are one such example.

Trump has signed legislation to make it easier to burn coal. He also rejected the Paris climate agreement, something 198 other countries have embraced.

So how does corporate America feel? Is it just rolling over and requesting coal-fired power for its energy needs?

Quite the contrary. American businesses have broken ranks with Washington on energy policy.

And they have done it in big numbers. Even without the government’s participation in the Paris agreement, 327 major corporations are aligning their emission-reduction plans with the Paris goals through the Science Based Targets initiative.

These companies are from all over the world, including the U.S., and have a combined value of $6.5 trillion. They are from just about every major sector, including food processing, technology, finance, chemicals and nearly 70 other sectors.

An additional 864 corporations around the world intend to adopt the Paris greenhouse gas emission limits within two years.

“We Are Still In”

Leaders from more than 2,500 American businesses, city halls, college campuses and state houses signed a declaration that expresses a belief in climate change and a commitment to honoring and abiding by the terms of the Paris agreement.

The declaration is called “We Are Still In.”

These signers represent more than 130 million Americans and some $6.2 trillion of U.S. economic interests.

And here’s one other interesting bit of information: They all vote.

So what is Trump thinking by turning his back on these people? For one, he’s had coal industry advocates like Robert Murray constantly blowing in his ear.

This isn’t too surprising. Murray is the CEO of a coal mining company with one of the worst track records in the business.

Business as Usual

After Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement, the “We Are Still In” group was launched. It’s a clear statement from U.S. organizations that affirms a commitment to moving toward a greener future in energy.

It’s not as if the U.S. is the only country getting rid of coal plants. Coal and its economics are as out of favor in Europe as they are here.

Half of European coal plants are money losers. By 2030, almost all of them will be.

Five years ago, coal-fired generation provided 40% of electricity in the U.K. Today, coal’s share has dwindled to just 2%.

Australia’s largest power producer, AGL Energy, is closing one of its largest coal-fired power plants. It’s replacing it with renewables and natural gas-fired units.

Even China is starting to ditch coal.

Last year, China unveiled a list of 151 coal plants that must close or stop construction. The capacity is equal to 95,000 megawatts. That’s as much as the combined total power capacity of Germany and Japan.

As I’ve been saying for a while now, the massive shift away from coal has more to do with economics than politics or environmentalism. Since 2010, the cost of a solar energy system has dropped by 70%. Wind systems have dropped 25% in the same time frame.

And of all places, China is fueling the dropping cost of renewables. Instead of funding new coal plants, the Red Dragon plans to drop more than $360 billion on wind and solar power by 2020.

Volume purchases like that will continue to drive costs down. Further, China expects this will create 13 million jobs in renewable energy.

The U.S. government under Trump hasn’t shown the same kind of initiative… quite the opposite.

In the absence of any federal plan to phase out coal here, we’re fortunate to have 2,500 business leaders who want to do their part.

What do you think about this contentious issue? Feel free to comment below.

Good investing,

Dave