​Biden clean-energy plan would accelerate state efforts on carbon

Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan to revive the economy would rely on boosting jobs in clean energy, and would accelerate the effort to shift to carbon-free electricity.

Biden’s energy and infrastructure program released Tuesday calls for a 100 per cent carbon-free energy industry by 2035, at least five years earlier than mandates already in place in states including California and New York.

Biden’s clean-energy and climate plan is central to his economic-recovery efforts, said Jigar Shah, an executive council member at Clean Energy for Biden, a group of industry leaders supporting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The plan would buoy the industry and aim to expand employment at a time when the U.S. has faced record job losses.

“This is the only sector where America could put $2 trillion to work,” said Shah, who is also co-founder of clean-energy financier Generate Capital. “We know that it can put people to work.”

Stocks of renewable-energy companies soared Tuesday as details of the plan emerged, adding to recent gains. First Solar Inc., the largest U.S. panel manufacturer, climbed more than nine per cent, and Sunrun Inc., America’s biggest installer of residential rooftop solar systems, gained as much as 14 per cent to a record high.

A Biden presidency would benefit wind companies including turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems A/S and blade producer TPI Composites Inc., according to Jeffrey Osborne, an analyst at Cowen & Co. Equipment suppliers including Enphase Energy Inc. and SolarEdge Technologies Inc. could also expect higher demand from solar developers.

State mandates

Biden’s target of creating a carbon-free energy industry by 2035 is more ambitious than other state mandates that have been passed in recent years. California and New Mexico expect their grids to be emissions-free by 2045, and New York is aiming for 2040.

“I think there is a recognition with the impacts of climate change we see today that 2050 may not be soon enough and setting 2035 as a date demonstrates federal leadership,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

While most renewable energy companies stand to gain from the Democrat’s effort to promote carbon-free electricity, it’s still going to be a long road before that leads to a sales boom, said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates.

“It’s not a brand-new idea and they would have to get it through Congress before there’s any real benefit,” Molchanov said. “Even if they win the Senate, every Democrat would become a swing vote. Would Joe Manchin vote to eliminate every coal job?” Manchin, a Democrat, is a senator from West Virginia.

Investors in renewable energy should still be optimistic that wind and solar companies will benefit from a sustained shift away from the Trump administration’s pro-fossil fuel policies, said Andy Devries, a utilities and power analyst for CreditSights.

“We expect a potential Joe Biden victory in November to be a major positive for clean energy,” Devries said.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.