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Climate change and the economics of biomass energy feedstocks in semi-arid agricultural landscapes: A spatially explicit real options analysis

Version 2 2024-06-04, 10:26
Version 1 2017-10-02, 13:52
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-04, 10:26 authored by CM Regan, JD Connor, R Raja Segaran, WS Meyer, Brett BryanBrett Bryan, B Ostendorf
The economics of establishing perennial species as renewable energy feedstocks has been widely investigated as a climate change adapted diversification option for landholders, primarily using net present value (NPV) analysis. NPV does not account for key uncertainties likely to influence relevant landholder decision making. While real options analysis (ROA) is an alternative method that accounts for the uncertainty over future conditions and the large upfront irreversible investment involved in establishing perennials, there have been limited applications of ROA to evaluating land use change decision economics and even fewer applications considering climate change risks. Further, while the influence of spatially varying climate risk on biomass conversion economic has been widely evaluated using NPV methods, effects of spatial variability and climate on land use change have been scarcely assessed with ROA. In this study we applied a simulation-based ROA model to evaluate a landholder's decision to convert land from agriculture to biomass. This spatially explicit model considers price and yield risks under baseline climate and two climate change scenarios over a geographically diverse farming region. We found that underlying variability in primary productivity across the study area had a substantial effect on conversion thresholds required to trigger land use change when compared to results from NPV analysis. Areas traditionally thought of as being quite similar in average productive capacity can display large differences in response to the inclusion of production and price risks. The effects of climate change, broadly reduced returns required for land use change to biomass in low and medium rainfall zones and increased them in higher rainfall areas. Additionally, the risks posed by climate change can further exacerbate the tendency for NPV methods to underestimate true conversion thresholds. Our results show that even under severe drying and warming where crop yield variability is more affected than perennial biomass plantings, comparatively little of the study area is economically viable for conversion to biomass under $200/DM t, and it is not until prices exceed $200/DM t that significant areas become profitable for biomass plantings. We conclude that for biomass to become a valuable diversification option the synchronisation of products and services derived from biomass and the development of markets is vital.



Journal of Environmental Management













Publication classification

C Journal article, C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2017, Elsevier Ltd.