October 23, 2020: By the time our next news bulletin hits your inboxes, on November 12 or 13 — depending on where in the world you are — the so-called Free World could have a new leader.
The US election will be run on November 3, in a campaign that will be as much remembered for taking place amid a pandemic as it will for anything to do with policy.
But when it comes to the battery industry, what openings — or closures — are the two very different administrations likely to offer?
At the heart of both administrations is climate change — one for being all over it, the other for being almost entirely absent.
Joe Biden has proposed spending $1.7 trillion to help integrate environmental policies into almost all decision-making in government. Renewable energy is one of the key aspects of this, with solar and wind power promised across the country as part of a 10-year plan that also includes more electric vehicles on the roads.
Donald Trump, a known climate change sceptic, does not include any mention of it in his second-term pledges, vowing instead to extricate the US from the Paris Accord on November 4, the day after the election. He does however make pledges to clean up air and ocean pollution.
“A fundamental difference between Biden and Trump in energy is that for Biden, climate action is an imperative, and will inform all energy policy,” says Roger Miksad, executive vice-president, Battery Council International.
“For Trump, his administration has focused on economic growth over climate issues, and the president has publicly stated his disagreement with climate change concerns.
“That said, some very influential Republicans come from wind and solar producing states, which could influence a second Trump administration to tacitly recognize renewable deployment.
“A second Trump administration also would likely spur additional state government efforts to promote renewables and storage, such as those seen in California and Virginia,” — although additional fossil fuel availability and continued loosening of exploration restrictions could also make renewable generation less economically attractive, he said.
When it comes to automotive, if lead batteries are to compete with the influx of electric vehicles that a Biden government would encourage, it will be up to industry to deliver more fuel-efficient and lower carbon emitting vehicles.
“Both the Trump administration and the Biden campaign have committed to major infrastructure investments,” said Miksad. “The commitment to move towards a more carbon-free energy policy would be favourable to deep-cycle and energy storage systems generally, but obviously could affect the long-term demand for internal combustion engine vehicles.
“It will be imperative to deliver battery technologies to support a transition to an electrified future, and to demonstrate the long-term role reduced-emissions hybrid and mild-hybrid ICE vehicles can have alongside full EVs.”
Wood Mackenzie, the commodity analysts, said the election would signal a fork in the road for energy policy.
“A second term for Donald Trump would mean a continuation of the pattern of the past four years: a generally laissez-faire approach to energy policy, with attempts at the margin to support the oil, gas and coal industries through deregulation and occasional intervention.
“A victory for Joe Biden would mean an ambitious attempt to use federal government to restructure the entire US energy sector to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and see stricter fuel economy standards, an end to oil and gas lease sales in federal lands and waters, and new obstacles to permitting for fossil fuel infrastructure.”
The US Energy Storage Association sees either administration as both at the very least upholding what is already in place.
“For any outcome of the presidential and congressional elections, it’s clear that support for energy storage is a bipartisan issue, even in these polarized times,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the ESA.
“We are confident that the policies introduced in the current administration (such as the stand-alone storage investment tax credit, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act and DOE’s Energy Storage Grand Challenge) will press forward.
“Depending on election results, the approaches could differ on decarbonization of the electric and transportation sectors or on reliability and resilience. However, there will be a foundational requirement of affordability for citizens, and widespread deployment of energy storage is well positioned to support any scenario.
“Ultimately, we believe in our 100GW by 2030 vision and that the US renewable and clean energy sectors are expanding toward a more resilient, efficient, sustainable, and affordable electricity grid.”