Day one of ACORE’s REFF Wall Street conference shows U.S. renewable energy finance in a healthy state, despite policy headwinds from the Trump Administration. But in the longer term, things get hot and crowded.

Image: ACORE

At pv magazine, we write a lot about policy. But finance is just as essential – if not more so – for renewable energy deployment. The intersection of the two is particularly important for solar, and there is perhaps no event that provides as good of a place to look at this as the Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF) Wall Street conference organized annually by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

U.S. renewable energy deployment by year.

This year’s event showed a remarkably healthy environment for both renewable energy finance and deployment, despite substantial challenges. The 18.4 GW of combined wind and solar deployed in 2017 was the second-largest volume in any year to date, only exceeded by 2016’s build-out in anticipation of the scheduled drop-down of the investment tax credit.

Total investment levels in U.S. renewable energy are less promising, as they fell for the second straight year in 2017. However, this top-line statistic may be less revealing.

U.S. investment in renewable energy, by year

The story of renewable energy finance over the last year is more one of challenges overcome, and these challenges come primarily from the Trump Administration. The list is long: solar tariffs under Section 201 and other trade actions by the Trump Administration, state-level changes to the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, and the potential for a bailout of coal and nuclear generation.

Not the least of the challenges was tax reform. ACORE took a leading role in fighting against the Base Erosion Anti Abuse Tax (BEAT) provision in the tax reform bill, which was whittled down significantly from the threat that it originally represented.

In the long run, BEAT has simply not been as bad as many feared. In his opening address, ACORE CEO Greg Wetstone revealed that there are actually more investors participating in tax…