NEW DELHI (METRO RAIL NEWS): In 2020, Indian Railways set a goal of being the world’s first net-zero emissions railway network by 2030. According to an environmental analysis released on Wednesday, if this occurs, it might result in a decrease of at least 15 million tonnes of CO2 emissions yearly, which could help the country fulfil 5% of its Nationally Determined Contributions target. Furthermore, it has the potential to save Rs 17,000 crore a year in fuel expenditures as well as other savings. According to an IE report, the environment report titled “Riding Sunbeams in India” is prepared by Delhi-based Climate Trends, United Kingdom-based Possible, and Riding Sunbeams.
The Indian Railways network is believed to be one of the world’s largest rail networks. The national transporter transports around 2.3 crore passengers per day and 1,160 MT of freight annually, which necessitates massive energy consumption, making it India’s largest power consumer as well as third largest fuel consumer. The national transporter used 2,749 billion litres of fuel, 17,682 terawatt-hours of power, and 1,000 tonnes of coal during the fiscal year 2018-19, accounting for 4% of India’s total greenhouse gas emissions. According to the research, the transportation industry as a whole accounts for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions. The government authorised plans in 2018 to electrify the entire Indian Railways network by 2023. Indian Railways increased its objective to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 in July of last year.
According to the analysis, changing all existing diesel traction to electric traction would result in an increase of 32% in CO2 emissions at first due to the country’s reliance on coal to generate electricity. To equal the traction energy supplied by the power grid, the national transporter would need to either procure its own clean electricity supply from wind and solar generators directly connected into the railway network or construct new grid-connected renewable projects. According to the article, the company intends to add 20 GW of solar for both traction and non-traction loads.
Indian Railways has identified approximately 51,000 hectares of barren land as ideal for solar production. The national carrier and the Railway Ministry have launched the Railway Energy Management Company, a joint venture organisation to facilitate the development of solar PV and wind energy projects to meet Indian Railways’ energy needs. The Indian railway network is expanding its renewable energy strategy, including the tendering of 3 GW of solar projects this year, as well as the commissioning of 103 MW of wind power. According to the research, the approved electrification will generate 20.4 crore man-days of direct employment during the construction phase.
As of March 2021, around 71% of India’s conventional (broad gauge) rails are electrified, making Indian Railways the world’s third-largest electrified rail network after Russia and China. In addition, the national transporter has smashed the yearly railway electrification record with over 6,000 RKM wired in 12 months, and it is on track to be entirely electrified by the end of 2023. Moreover, a variety of other initiatives are underway, including the replacement of diesel locomotives with electric, the construction of DFCs with high-speed rail, and the installation of 24 rooftop solar panels at 900 railway stations, among others.
The paper also predicts that by 2030, railway energy demand will have increased from 21 billion kilowatt-hours to 33 billion kilowatt-hours and that it will be totally provided by renewable energy, reducing the nation’s diesel usage and enhancing energy security.