Why Plug Power, SunPower, and Brookfield Renewable Stocks All Dropped Today

Monday is shaping up to be a be a bad day to own renewable energy stocks. Shares of hydroelectric, wind, and solar power plant operator Brookfield Renewable Energy (NYSE: BEPC) fell 4.1% through 11:20 a.m. ET, while smaller hydrogen company Plug Power (NASDAQ: PLUG) and solar power provider SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) sank 6.3% and 8.7%, respectively.

To find out why, let’s open up the pages of USA Today‘s Sunday edition, which reported that “U.S. counties are blocking the future of renewable energy.”

The vast potential of American renewable energy

This story starts out happy, with USA Today reminding readers that America is a potential renewable energy powerhouse (so to speak). Out of the 2.9 million square miles that comprise American territory, if we were to cover just 10,424 of those square miles — about one-third of 1% of America’s landmass — with solar panels and wind turbines, this would generate enough clean energy to cover 100% of our electricity needs. And the Biden administration has proposed doing just that, setting a goal of generating 100% of America’s energy from non-fossil fuel renewable energy sources by 2035 — barely a decade away.

Now here’s the bad news: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), we’re not going to hit that goal.

Despite data showing that the cost per megawatt hour of producing utility-scale wind and solar power is now cheaper than producing power from coal, natural gas, or even nuclear power, a NIMBY (not in my backyard) movement is sweeping the country. In 2023, nearly as many counties passed legislation blocking new solar farms as began producing solar power within their bounds, while in 2022, more counties blocked wind farms than began producing it.

As of today, through a combination of moratoriums, bans, project permitting regulations, and other restrictions, new utility-scale solar and wind projects are effectively banned in 15% of U.S. counties. And these include some of the counties best situated for generating solar power (i.e., the sunny Southwest), as well as those best situated for generating wind…

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