President Obama won the re-election. This has been the big global headline for the past two days, and it has allowed the renewable energy industry to let out a huge sigh of relief. There’s hope.
But after skimming through the numerous Obama headlines, I came across a few election stories that haven’t made the front page.
While Obama’s win has been seen as a big win for renewables, Michigan voters put a damper on accelerated progress. Proposal 3 called for the state to generate 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and utilities would not have been able to raise electricity rates by more than one percent. Voters turned the proposal down by a margin of almost two-to-one, according to Bloomberg.
“The overwhelming rejection of Proposal 3 is an endorsement that the state’s existing energy policy is working,” said Howard Edelson, campaign manager for Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan Coalition. “Voters clearly recognized that the state’s constitution is not the place for costly energy policy.”
Michigan’s current law, set in 2008, requires 10 percent renewables by 2015. The proposal caused quite a stir throughout the election season; opponents spent more than $35 million in a campaign to block the initiative, which outspent supporters three times over.
Voters in Arizona had a similar reaction to an increased renewable standard threat. The “Solar Team,” which was comprised of three Democrats vying for control of the Arizona Corporation Commission that regulates public utilities, lost their chance to increase the State’s renewables mandate. Voters instead chose three Republicans to dominate the commission, each of whom, though not against solar, are not keen on pushing the current mandate too high, according to Phoenix New Times. Arizona’s current mandate calls for its utilities to generate 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2025.
But while Arizona and Michigan voters seemed skittish to accept more renewable energy, a new poll found that most U.S. voters strongly support renewable energy and advocate increasing its use. The poll, conducted on more than 1,000 voters in 11 swing states Nov. 4 to Nov. 6 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, found that more than 70 percent favored an increase in wind and solar energy, and attacks on Obama’s dealings with Solyndra, the Keystone pipeline, and being “anti-coal” had little to no effect on votes.
While the election results had an expected negative affect on the stock market as a whole, and it dropped nearly 300 points on the day after the election, renewable energy stocks seemed to have sustained minimal impact. According to CBS, some of the few stocks that benefitted from Obama’s re-election were renewable energy companies – especially solar manufacturers (Yingli and First Solar each rose 2 percent), and those in the coal business were heavily impacted with some companies taking up to a 10 percent loss.
With both good and bad news stemming from the election, the renewable energy industry seems to be banking on Obama’s victory as a sign of hope for the future. As always, his victory speech provides much needed optimism for the future of the clean energy industry:
"We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the disruptive power of a warming planet,” said Obama. “We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world."
Lead image: Spirit of America via Shutterstock
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