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Renewable fuels: Policy effectiveness and project risk


  • Leach, Andrew
  • Doucet, Joseph
  • Nickel, Trevor


This paper examines the impact of government policy on the risk profile of a small ethanol production facility. We derive four key results from a simulation model. First, we show that commodity price risk may discourage investment in a project, despite a positive expected rate of return. Second, we show that political uncertainty may have significant impacts on the risk profile of a project. Next, we show that using only production subsidies to attract investors is expensive, since the financial assistance is paid regardless of whether the plant is operating under positive or negative financial conditions. Finally, we show that a capital grant provides a valuable complement to a subsidy, because the grant reduces the amount of value investors must put at risk, and increases their leverage thereby enhancing returns, while the subsidy mitigates commodity price risk. Our results show that compared to a subsidy-only approach, a grant and subsidy combination provides an investment environment with similar downside protection and expected returns for less than 60% of the cost. Further, we show that the two policy tools combined yield a superior investment environment to that created by an equivalent or greater total investment deployed entirely in either of the policy tools without the other.

Suggested Citation

  • Leach, Andrew & Doucet, Joseph & Nickel, Trevor, 2011. "Renewable fuels: Policy effectiveness and project risk," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 4007-4015, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:39:y:2011:i:7:p:4007-4015

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brian S. Freeze & T. Peters, 1999. "A Note on the Profitability of Wheat-ethanol-feedlot Production in Alberta," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 47(1), pages 67-78, March.
    2. Bruce A. Babcock & Kanlaya J. Barr & Miguel Carriquiry, 2010. "Costs and Benefits to Taxpayers, Consumers, and Producers from U.S. Ethanol Policies," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 10-sr106, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gegg, Per & Wells, Victoria, 2019. "The development of seaweed-derived fuels in the UK: An analysis of stakeholder issues and public perceptions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 133(C).
    2. Berrada, Asmae & Loudiyi, Khalid & Zorkani, Izeddine, 2017. "Profitability, risk, and financial modeling of energy storage in residential and large scale applications," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 94-109.

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