Indian Railways to Shift the Energy Mix Toward Renewable Sources


The International Conference on Green Initiatives and Railway Electrification has opened to a discourse on green initiatives, electrification, and decarbonization of the Indian Railways using renewable energy as a critical element.

The main objective of the conference is to bring together green power project developers and other stakeholders on a common platform for making the Indian Railways a more efficient and greener mode of transportation.

The inauguration of the conference was performed by Piyush Goyal, India’s minister of both railways and coal. Speaking at the occasion, Goyal said, “We are working in a time-bound manner, skillfully, and effectively to truly transform the Indian Railways into a world class, safe, and modern transporter. Just as India showed the world a new light for replacing LED bulbs, similarly the Indian Railways will also lead the world by achieving 100 percent electrification.”

By applying economies of scale, the Indian Railways expects that it will be able to accomplish 100 percent electrification at lower prices using “an incentive cum penalty” framework program. A holistic plan is needed to carry out this 100 percent electrification plan, and the conference is seeking solutions for bottlenecks with a view toward implementing the electrification in mission mode, Goyal added.

“Green initiatives and the adoption of viable sources of energy all over the Indian Railways has been a priority for the past three years,” said Manoj Sinha, minister of state for both railways and communications.

The Indian Railways is the single largest consumer of electricity with roughly 2 percent share of national energy consumption. Already the most efficient mode of transportation, rail is now further working to “shift the energy mix toward greener sources and has taken number of steps in this direction,” said Ashwani Lohani, chairman of the railway board. “We need to continue to innovate to make railway cost effective, sustainable and the preferred carrier.”

The Indian Railways plans to set up about 1,000 MW of solar and 200 MW of wind power projects by 2020-21 across zonal railways and production units. So far, more than 60 MW of solar and wind power projects have been installed covering 270 stations and 120 administrative buildings and hospitals. Further orders for about 150 MW more have been placed for solar plants on the roof tops of Indian Railway buildings.

The Indian Railways is also working to set up 400 of MW capacity through various other agencies to source energy in various states with land based solar plants.

According to Mercom India Research, the Indian Railways is already aggressively expanding its solar portfolio. In October 2017, the Indian Railways awarded a total of 30 MW of rooftop solar contracts to Azure Power (20 MW) and Fourth Partner Energy (10 MW).

There have also been several other noteworthy developlemts in the past year. In April 2017, the Indian Railways Organization for Alternate Fuel, an Indian Railways entity, and Bharat Heavy Electricals entered into an agreement to develop a 2 MW solar rooftop project in the city of Patiala in southeastern Punjab.

In March 2017, Azure Power won bids to develop 46 MW of rooftop solar for the Indian Railways.

Lastly, in September 2017, ABB India announced it would be providing solar inverters to support rooftop solar systems installations in 750 railway stations in the northern part of India in partnership with Azure Power.

Image credit: PIB