Viewpoint: Forecasting the Future

A presidential election always brings some degree of uncertainty.

In this case, I’m going to focus on the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. president-elect’s attitude toward hydropower. After all, the country has experienced eight years with the same leader, whose views on hydro are now pretty well-understood.

On Nov. 9, the editors of PennWell’s Hydro Group arrived in the office, hitched up our collective pants, and began researching what the next four years with Donald Trump in the White House might mean for the hydroelectric power industry in the U.S. All of our conclusions are naturally very nebulous; we won’t know until he’s been in office for a while how Trump might truly treat hydro. But his past comments on energy and the environment give us some context.

Hydro Group Editor Michael Harris put together a good viewpoint-type piece on this very topic that we published on HydroWorld.com the day after the election. Check it out at http://bit.ly/2fHXzOC. A short summary of the story also appears on page 6.

Some points I particularly want to call attention to are:

  • Trump tweeted in November 2012 that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
  • Trump’s 100-day action plan says he intends to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”
  • Trump’s has insisted that he would see the Paris Climate Agreement “scrapped and scrapped completely.”
  • Trump will be in a position to appoint two Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioners to open spots on the five-member commission, as well as replacements for all three existing (Democratic) commissioners, whose terms expire between 2017 and 2019.

All of what I have presented so far focuses on how the new president’s policies might affect the U.S. However, the U.S. and its neighbor, Canada, share many strong ties, including through hydropower. From the Columbia River Treaty in the west to the planned U.S.-Canada hydropower interconnections in the east, these two countries have formed partnerships to best take advantage of a valuable natural resource. So it also remains to be seen if and how these arrangements will be affected by the new U.S. president.

Speaking of Canada, the article on page 12 provides great insight into how various people and organizations in the country feel about the future of three big-picture issues: new development, cross-border transmission and aboriginal relations. Some highlights:

  • Jacob Irving with the Canadian Hydropower Association says the Paris Climate Agreement was a victory for Canadian hydropower in 2016.
  • Mario Mazza with Ontario Power Generation says failure or poor performance of some major equipment has posed a significant challenge
  • Paul McCuaig with Corpfinance International says the recently elected Liberal government in Ottawa has made environmental concerns and global warming a cornerstone of its agenda, which benefits hydro.

What do you think? Do you have any insight into how President Trump might treat hydropower over the next four years? If you do, tell me about them by emailing me, elizabethi@pennwell.com.

Elizabeth Ingram
Managing Editor
elizabethi@pennwell.com
@ElizabethIngra4

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