EME 801
Energy Markets, Policy, and Regulation




EME 801 Spring 2021 Final Project Description


For the final project in EME 801, you are asked to work in groups of two or three to perform a financial evaluation for a real or hypothetical energy project of your choosing. (I expect that most project ideas will be hypothetical, but if you, your organization or research team has an actual energy project that you would like to use as a case study, those would certainly be welcome.) You will be expected to define the scope of the project, provide a pro forma financial analysis that reflects knowledge of project valuation techniques as well as the relevant energy commodity market for your project (e.g. the oil or petroleum product market if your project was a refinery), and to identify and analyze market, policy or regulatory factors that may affect project viability in the future. You will also be asked to peer-review one other student’s work.

I will not place too many restrictions on paper topics, except that your hypothetical energy project should have a clear connection to the material that we have covered this semester. In particular, micro-scale energy projects (like rooftop solar) or energy projects that occur outside of market contexts (e.g., small-scale energy projects serving very remote areas or serving populations that have not previously had energy access) should be avoided. Projects that propose assessments of emerging technologies or the use of existing technologies in new ways are acceptable and encouraged. I encourage everyone to run project ideas by me prior to the first project milestone on March 31 (see below).

In the past, some folks have asked if they can use a project topic from another course for this project assignment. My response to this is a rather firm "no" because it creates problems with the same work being used for multiple courses (which is a violation of Penn State's academic integrity policy). Your project topic should be something that interests you, and which you aren't working on already in another course context. If you are inspired to work on a specific topic because of your work or community experience that is fine - but all analysis for this project must be original work created just for this class. You may not repurpose analysis from your place of work or other context. Additionally, no company proprietary data may be used for the project. All data and information that you use must come from public-domain sources that can be freely accessed by anyone.

Project Timeline and Milestones

Unless otherwise specified, all project deliverables should be submitted to the Drop Boxes in the COURSE PROJECT module in Canvas. The project schedule is defined by the following milestones (which can also be found on the Canvas Calendar for EME 801):

  • 11:59 pm (eastern time), March 31, 2021:
    Submit a word processed document with a brief (no more than two pages single-spaced) description of your proposed project. Your description should include specific data sources that you can draw upon in your analysis.
  • 11:59 pm (eastern time), April 8, 2021:
    Submit a first draft spreadsheet pro forma P&L and cash flow statement. Also submit a word processed document describing two sensitivity analyses that you propose in order to assess the robustness of your project’s financial viability. 
  • 11:59 pm (eastern time), April 21, 2021:
    Submit a first draft word-processed document containing the following elements:
    • A written description of how you performed your pro forma analysis – including descriptions of data sources, assumptions made, and the determination of relevant financial variables such as the WACC;
    • Quantitative analysis of your energy project, including net present value, internal rate of return, breakeven time, and unit technical cost analysis. You should include these analysis metrics both for the base case that you identified as well as your chosen sensitivity analyses.
    • Qualitative discussion of some relevant market, regulatory or policy factors that might affect the financial viability of your project, but that you did not or could not analyze quantitatively.
  • 11:59 pm (eastern time), May 1, 2021:
    Submit a spreadsheet document with your final pro forma statements, and a word processed document with your final project description and analysis.
  • 11:59 pm (eastern time), May 6, 2021:
    Each student will need to write a two-page review of another student’s work. Assignments for peer review will be handed out after the papers are submitted.

Project Grading

The project is worth 450 points (45%) of your semester grade and will be graded on the following point scheme:

  • Pro forma statement: (100 points)
    Pro forma statements will be evaluated on their numerical accuracy; inclusion of relevant revenue and expense streams (including depreciation and taxes); and the reasonableness of any assumptions made. Organization and clarity of the spreadsheet presentation will also be a factor in the pro forma statement score.
  • Written presentation: (200 points)
    The written report should be use 12 point Times New Roman font and be no more than 20 pages double-spaced with one-inch margins on all sides. Please pay attention to these formatting instructions, as the instructor will deduct points for failing to follow formatting instructions. Pages should be numbered. The report should contain the following sections:
    • An executive summary of no more than one page. The executive summary should provide succinct discussion of the project you chose; the most important results from your quantitative analysis; and a brief summary of qualitative factors that might affect the viability of your project in the future.
    • A written description of how you conducted your pro forma analysis. Your goal here should be that someone with basic knowledge of the energy industries and financial practices could reproduce your pro forma statements based on your description.
    • Quantitative analysis of the financial viability of your project under a base-case set of market assumptions, plus a sensitivity analysis where you consider two other sets of assumptions and see how these alternative assumptions affect project economics.
    • Qualitative analysis of institutional, regulatory, or policy drivers that you have not quantified but which could materially affect project financial viability in the future.
    • A one paragraph declaration of what each person contributed to the project. This does not need to be long, but should give me some idea of how the project effort was divided between pairs of students.
  • Timely submission of draft and final materials according to the milestones: (100 points)
  • Peer review: (50 points)
    Each student will be asked to anonymously peer-review another student's project report. Your review should be thoughtful and draw on material that we have discussed in class over the course of the semester. More information on the peer-review process will be forthcoming.