Governors to Trump: Keep your hands off our renewables

The president's "An America First Energy Plan" sends renewable energy tumbling down a memory hole, as if the past eight years of progress did not happen. It's up to the solar industry and state officials to ensure the rest of the country doesn't forget.

When something has at least 90% support among the American public, it behooves the chief executives of states to listen to their constituents – and to get the president to pay attention to their wishes, too.

In that spirit, the Governors’ Wind and Solar Energy Coalition, a group that includes more than 20 states governed by members of both parties, wrote a four-page letter to President Donald J. Trump demanding that he support pro-clean-energy legislation and policies.

Signed by coalition Chair Gov. Gina M. Raimondo of Rhode Island and Vice Chair Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas opened their letter with an appeal to the president’s desire to lower unemployment numbers:

The Coalition’s twenty member-states are home to hundreds of wind and solar energy facilities that employ hundreds of thousands of Americans and contribute significantly to each state’s economy, and the nation’s at large. The growth of the renewable energy industry is an American success story built on federal research and development, state policy leadership, private sector investment, and ingenuity.

The pair then asked Trump to support continued investment in renewable-energy research projects in conjunction with the country’s national laboratories and universities. They suggested the stark price reductions in both wind- and solar-generating technologies have resulted from the country’s ongoing commitment to such research.

Raimondo and Brownback pleaded with the administration not to cede the future of renewable energy to countries like China and others around the globe.

“New electricity distribution, storage, controls and end-use technologies are making possible increased resilience and decreased costs to improve economic competitiveness,” they wrote. “Federal funding for energy research and development helps ensure that future generations of Americans are the beneficiaries of the country’s tradition of energy innovation and economic competitiveness.”

Finally, the letter closed with a request to work with federal legislators to streamline permitting of wind and solar projects on private and public lands – and even offered suggestions on how this collaboration could best be handled.

An especially effective approach used by past Administrations to address permitting and siting issues is to direct assistant secretary level appointees from key agencies to meet quarterly and report on progress and remaining barriers. Consistent high-level attention, followed by White House questions, can deliver results.

Though the letter was addressed to Trump directly, the coalition carbon-copied nearly every important member of Trump’s advisory team (though, interestingly, not notorious Senior Advisor Steve Bannon), including:

  • The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President
  • The Honorable Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff
  • Members, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
  • Members, U.S. Senate Finance Committee
  • Members, U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Members, U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development
  • Members, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Commerce and Energy
  • The Honorable Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of Energy Nominee
  • The Honorable Scott Pruitt, U.S EPA Administrator Nominee
  • The Honorable Sonny Perdue, U.S Department of Agriculture Nominee
  • The Honorable Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President
  • The Honorable Mick Mulvaney, White House Office of Management & Budget Nominee

The letter comes amid uncertainty in the renewable-energy sector about what Trump intends to do with it. Within hours of Trump’s inauguration, the renewable-energy portion of the White House website was removed, replaced with a 337-word declaration called “An America First Energy Plan” that shale oil, traditional oil and natural gas – but had no mention of renewable-energy sources at all.

Then, in the middle of confirmation hearings for Secretary of Energy nominee Rick Perry, the administration announced draconian cuts to the Department of Energy, including the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which oversees the U.S. Sunshot Initiative and helps allocate research dollars within the solar industry.

At press time, the Trump administration had not responded to the coalition’s letter.