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BioethanolConventional bioethanol produced from starch (e.g. maize or wheat) and sugar crops (e.g. sugar cane and sugar beets) is the largest contributor of total biofuel production and hence the largest renewable contribution to transport. In 2012, bioethanol production exceeded biodiesel production by a factor of three, with 80 billion litres of bioethanol produced globally.

Produced from food or feed crops high in sugar or starch, conventional bioethanol production costs are dominated by feedstock costs. In 2012, conventional ethanol produced from corn in the United States was estimated to have cost between USD 0.9 and USD 1.1 per litre of gasoline equivalent (lge) to produce, while Brazilian sugar cane ethanol was estimated to have cost between USD 0.7/lge and USD 0.9/lge. The cost of ethanol from other grains (e.g. wheat) was higher. This compares to average refinery wholesale prices in the United States, with monthly averages between USD 0.72/litre and USD 0.84/litre in 2012 for gasoline.

Characterised by more complex processes, advanced bioethanol from lignocellulosic feedstocks have higher estimated costs than conventional bioethanol technologies. Advanced bioethanol is estimated to cost between USD 1.04 to USD 1.45/lge today. However, as investments in R&D increase and commercial-scale advanced bioethanol projects gain experience, advanced bioethanol technologies could see production costs fall to USD 0.7/lge for a feedstock cost of USD 30/dry tonne and USD 1.0/lge for feedstock costs of USD 100/tonne by 2020.

Publication and Charts
  • Road Transport: The Cost of Renewable Solutions: Executive Summary | Full Report
  • Bioethanol charts
Advanced biofuels to be competitive with fossil fuels by 2020.       Solar PV module prices of around USD 0.75/Watt makes PV the economic solution for 1.3 billion people.       Electric vehicle battery packs to fall 40% to 55% by 2020 to cost USD 300-400/kWh in 2020.       Some of today's first-of-a-kind commercial plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles are economic today.       Road transport accounted for 76% of total transport demand in 2010.       Biodiesel consumption grew 42% per year between 2000-2010.       Feedstock costs account for 60-80% of total conventional ethanol production costs.       The levelised cost of electricity of wind, solar PV, CSP and biomass is declining.       Electricity from hydropower, geothermal and biomass where good resources remain are the cheapest way to generate electricity.       Renewables are increasingly the most economic solution for new grid connected capacity.       Wind turbine prices have been declining since 2009.       Renewables are becoming the economic choice for off-grid and mini-grids.       Wind turbine prices in China in 2012 were USD 620/kW.       The installed cost of wind is typically lower than coal-fired power plants in OECD countries.