Railways plans to use renewable energy in a “big” way and is looking to add 1,000 MW of solar and 200 MW of wind energy, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Wednesday. Prabhu along with Power Minister Piyush Goyal also launched a new report, which said Railways can draw up to 25 per cent of its electric power needs from renewables and achieve the target of 5 GW of solar power by 2025.
The study released by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and funded by UNDP said the Railways would need an investment of $3.6 billion to meet the 5 GW target. “We have a plan to include renewables in a big way in Railways’ energy mix and make it the cleanest mode of transport. We are looking to add 1,000 MW of solar and 200 MW of wind energy out of which 36 MW has already been commissioned.
“Waste-to-energy, energy efficiency, energy audits and restoration of water bodies are areas in which we are looking to improve our resource efficiency,” a CEEW statement quoted Prabhu as saying at a national conference on ‘Decarbonising the Indian Railways: Scaling Ambitions to 5GW of Renewables. Noting that the government wants Indian Railways to become a “green engine” of growth, he asserted that decarbonisation is extremely important for Railways. “We have set up a target of electrifying the entire network of Indian Railways in the next 10 years with at least 90 per cent of track electrification in the next five years,” he said.
The study ‘Decarbonising the Indian Railways: Scaling Ambitions, Understanding Ground Realities’ identifies key policy and regulatory challenges that developers face while supporting the Railways’ renewable energy push. The Power Minister said Railways have come out with a commendable plan called “Mission 41K” where it is looking at a saving of Rs 41,000 crore through the electrification of railway lines.
“The decision to domestically source equipment is another positive move from Railways and will largely benefit the domestic industry. I would also like to thank Railways for extending its supporting in restarting Ratnagiri plant by agreeing to purchase 500MW of generating capacity. Energy efficiency has been one of the important programmes of the government and I am glad that Railways has joined the energy efficiency programme and tied up with EESL to have 100 per cent LED lights. Today, we are supplying power at a reduced rate of 60-70 per cent than what it was three years ago even at peak demand,” he said in the statement.
The 5 GW target provides a unique opportunity for solar developers, with an estimated 1.1 GW coming from rooftop and 3.9 GW from utility scale projects, the study said. “The Indian Railways is a guaranteed consumer and has a growing electricity demand, which should mitigate any perceived counter-party risks for project developers or investors,” the study added.
The CEEW statement said the Railways announced its 1 GW solar power target in 2015 and had generated about 37 MW of wind and 16 MW of solar power across railway operations till March 2017.
The Railways has also tendered close to 255 MW of rooftop solar projects, of which 80 MW had already been awarded. In addition, it is in the process of tendering about 250 MW of land-based solar projects, of which 50 MW have been awarded, it said.