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Economics to Keep Wind and Solar Energy Thriving With Trump

  • Utilities plan to continue building wind, solar farms
  • Clean power is now cheaper than coal or gas in some states

On the plains of West Texas, new wind farms can be built for just $22 a megawatt-hour. In the Arizona and Nevada deserts, solar projects are less than $40 a megawatt-hour. Compare those figures with the U.S. average lifetime cost of $52 for natural gas plants and about $65 for coal.

Environmental rules and government subsidies are no longer the key drivers for clean power. Economics are.

That’s why Donald Trump will have limited influence on the U.S. utility industry’s push toward renewable energy, according to executives and investors. Companies including NextEra Energy Inc., Duke Energy Corp. and others that invest billions in power plants are already moving forward with long-term plans to generate electricity with cleaner and more economic alternatives.

“We said before the election that whoever is elected president, we would be continuing our efforts to go to a low-carbon fleet and also pursue renewables,” said Tom Williams, a spokesman for Duke, the second-largest U.S. utility owner.

Wind and solar have been the two biggest sources of electricity added to U.S. grids since 2014 as utilities closed a record number of aging coal-fired generators. Trump has derided clean energy and assailed environmental regulations that hinder jobs, while pledging to revive the mining industry. In an interview Tuesday, Trump softened his view, telling the New York Times that he has an ‘‘open mind’’ on the Paris climate accord and noting that “there is some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.

And it’s not just cost that makes clean energy attractive to utilities -- it’s time. A solar farm can go up in months to meet incremental increases in utility...


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