The environment report called “Riding Sunbeams in India”, is prepared by Delhi-based Climate Trends, United Kingdom-based Possible and Riding Sunbeams.
In 2020, Indian Railways had set a target to become the world’s first net-zero emissions railway network by the year 2030. As per an environment report released on Wednesday, if that happens, it could lead to a reduction of emissions of at least 15 million tonnes of CO2 annually, which could help meet 5% of the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions target. Besides, it can also save Rs 17,000 crore in fuel costs as well as other savings per year. The environment report called “Riding Sunbeams in India”, is prepared by Delhi-based Climate Trends, United Kingdom-based Possible and Riding Sunbeams, according to an IE report.
The Indian Railways network is said to be among the largest rail networks of the world. The national transporter transports around 2.3 crore passengers daily and carries 1,160 MT of freight annually, which requires enormous energy, making it India’s largest electricity consumer as well as third largest diesel consumer. During the financial year 2018-19, the national transporter utilized 2,749 billion litres of diesel, 17,682 terawatt-hour of electricity and 1,000 tonnes of coal, accounting for 4% of India’s total greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, the entire transport sector accounts for 12% greenhouse gas. In 2018, plans were approved by the government for complete electrification of the Indian Railways network by 2023. In the month of July last year, Indian Railways stepped up its target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.
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The report said that converting all existing diesel traction to electric traction would cause an increase of 32% in CO2 emissions initially because of the country’s reliance on coal to generate electricity. The national transporter would need either to procure its own clean electricity supply from wind and solar generators directly connected into the railway network, or establish new grid-connected renewable projects in order to match the traction energy supplied via the electricity grid. The report further said that it had plans to install 20 GW of solar for both traction as well as non-traction loads.
Approximately 51,000 hectares of unproductive land of Indian Railways has been identified as suitable for solar developments. The national transporter and the Railway Ministry have formed Railway Energy Management Company, a joint venture firm to support the development of solar PV as well as wind energy projects to supply the energy requirements of Indian Railways. India’s railway network is scaling up its plan for renewable energy, including tendering 3 GW of solar projects this year as well as commissioning 103 MW of wind power. As per the report, the approved electrification will create direct employment of 20.4 crore man-days during the construction period.
About 71% of India’s conventional (broad gauge) tracks are electrified as of March 2021, making Indian Railways the world’s third-largest electrified rail network after Russia and China. Also, the national transporter has broken the record for yearly railway electrification with over 6,000 RKM wired in 12 months, and it is ready to be fully electrified by the end of 2023. Moreover, various other measures are underway, including replacing diesel locos with electric, building DFCs with high-speed rail, rolling out 24 rooftop solar at 900 railway stations among others.
The report also projects that the future energy consumption of railways is expected to increase by 2030, from 21 billion kilowatt-hour to 33 billion kilowatt-hour, and it will be entirely supplied by renewable energy, thereby, reducing the nation’s diesel consumption and improving energy security.