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Railways net-zero target could cut 15 mn tonnes of CO2 emissions, save Rs 17,000 cr: Report

The report, Riding Sunbeams in India, has been prepared by environmental organisations – Delhi-based Climate Trends, UK-based Possible and Riding Sunbeams.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: September 2, 2021 7:25:54 am
In July 2020, Railways set its target to net-zero emissions by 2030. (Representational)

INDIAN RAILWAYS set a target in 2020 to become the world’s first net-zero emissions railway by 2030. If that happens, it could lead to an annual emissions reduction of at least 15 million tonnes of CO2, which could help meet 5 per cent of India’s Nationally Determined Contributions target, as well as save Rs 17,000 crore in fuel costs and other savings per year, according to a environment report released on Wednesday.

The report, “Riding Sunbeams in India”, is prepared by environmental organisations – Delhi-based Climate Trends, UK-based Possible and Riding Sunbeams.

The Indian Railways is among the world’s largest rail networks and transports nearly 2.3 crore people daily and carries 1,160 million tonnes of goods annually, which requires enormous amounts of energy, making it the largest electricity consumer and third largest diesel consumer in India.

In 2018-19, the Railways used 17,682 terawatt-hour of electricity, 2,749 billion litres of diesel and 1,000 tonnes of coal, accounting for 4 per cent of India’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The entire transport sector accounts for 12 per cent greenhouse gas.

In 2018, the government approved plans for 100 per cent electrification of the Railways by 2023. In July 2020, the Railways stepped up its target to net-zero emissions by 2030.

“Converting all current diesel traction to electric would initially cause a 32% increase in CO2 emissions due to India’s reliance on coal to produce electricity. IR (Indian Railways) would need either to procure its own supply of clean electricity from solar and wind generators connected directly into the rail network, or develop new grid-connected renewable projects to match the traction energy supplied via the electricity grid,’’ said the report, adding that it had plans to install 20 GW of solar for both traction and non-traction loads.

About 51,000 hectares of unproductive railway land has been identified as suitable for solar developments. Indian Railways and the Ministry of Railways have formed a joint venture Railway Energy Management Company to support the development of solar PV and wind energy projects to supply the railway’s energy needs.

Railways is scaling up its renewable energy plan, including tendering 3 GW of solar projects this year and commissioning 103 MW of wind power.

The report finds that the approved electrification will generate direct employment of 20.4 crore man-days during the period of construction.

As of March 2021, nearly 71 per cent of India’s conventional (broad gauge) railway tracks are electrified, making it the third-largest electrified railway system in the world after Russia and China. The Railways has also broken the record for annual rail electrification with over 6,000 route km wired in 12 months, and is set to be fully electrified by December 2023.

A number of other measures are underway, including replacing diesel locomotives with electric, building dedicated freight corridors with high-speed rail, rolling out 24 rooftop solar at 900 stations among others.

The report projects that the Railways future energy consumption, likely to increase from 21 billion kilowatt-hour to 33 billion kilowatt-hour by 2030, will be entirely supplied by renewable energy, bringing down India’s diesel consumption and improving energy security.

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