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“Donald Trump’s administration wholly supports fossil fuels over renewable energies, so there is a strong possibility that the U.S. will stop subsidizing the installation of PV systems altogether,” noted Tsai. “Under this scenario, the U.S. will witness a great urgency to install PV systems before the ITC cut-off date, followed by a freeze in domestic demand and a worsening of the current oversupply problem in the global PV market.”
Trump’s energy policies are explicitly fossil-fuel centric and particularly rely on the shale oil industry. Under his “America First Energy Plan,” the U.S. is to achieve energy independence by exploiting domestic reserves of shale oil, natural gas and clean coal. The promotion of these energy sources are expected to simultaneously lower domestic energy prices, reduce carbon emissions and create economic growth.
What is noticeably absent in Trump’s energy plan is the development of renewable energies. At the same time, Trump’s “America First” policies will result in protectionist initiatives that target allegedly unfair trade practices by the Chinese government. Two popular themes in Trump’s agenda are the perseveration of domestic industries and fixing the huge U.S. trade deficit. Hence, it is possible that a Trump administration will use extreme measures against China in the area of trade.
“U.S. solar companies are mostly EPC service providers and PV system integrators, so raising the trade barriers will increase their development costs,” Tsai pointed out. “Companies can pass increased costs onto consumers in the form of higher prices, but that will constrain domestic demand and put greater pressure on the local PV industry.”
For Chinese solar companies, they are mainly concentrated on the manufacturing side of the industry. So far in the short term, they have circumvented U.S. trade barriers by moving their production facilities outside of their home country.
From the long-term perspective, however, the U.S. solar market is expected to contract significantly under Trump’s policies and the oversupply problem in the global PV market will get worse. In sum, PV industry participants will need to prepare for a period of uncertainty and challenges following Trump’s ascension to the White House.
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