On the eve of World Environment Day, Shri Suresh P Prabhu, Union Minister for Railways released CEEW's latest policy brief 'Greening the tracks: Achieving the 1 gigawatt solar PV target of the Indian Railways' at a seminar organised by the Ministry of Railways.
The Vision 2020 document of the Indian Railways states that a key target is to use at least 10% of its energy requirement from renewable sources. Further to this, the Rail Budget 2015-16 announced that the railways would aim to achieve an installed capacity of 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar by 2018-19. This initiative of the Indian Railways would be a significant contribution to India's 100 GW solar targets under the National Solar Mission.
CEEW's policy brief uses techno-economic analysis to assess the potential of solar PV projects across various non-traction operations of the Indian Railways. The analysis includes diesel locomotive sheds, railway workshops, railway stations, railway offices, level crossing gates, and use of vacant railway land.
A conservative estimate indicates that the Indian Railways could achieve about 40% of the 1 GW target at an estimated cost of around ~INR 2,930 crore. In the 'Optimistic' scenario, the Indian Railways could achieve close to 1.37 GW of installed solar PV capacity.
It is estimated that cumulative emission savings of about 45 Mt CO2 would accrue under the Optmistic scenario; under the Conservative scenario, emissions reduction would be about 12.5 Mt CO2. The results indicate that the use of railway land for large solar PV along with installations at diesel loco-sheds and railway workshops have the highest potential in terms of emission savings over the lifecycle of the plant.
The policy brief proposes that in the first year, the Railways should focus on developing solar PV projects in the three railway zones, namely, Northern Railway, Central Railway and South Central Railway. These three together will help the Indian Railways achieve about 25% of its 1 GW target.
In order to ensure that the Indian Railways achieves its 1 GW solar target, three key priority areas are: financing, modalities of land use for solar, and streamlining of institutional mechanisms. The Railways must explore the possibility of innovative PPP modes which would facilitate adequate financing for solar PV projects. With regard to use of vacant land, the Railways must map future expansion plans and, then, identify suitable tracts of land which could be diverted to large solar PV projects such that the opportunity cost of land is minimal. Coordination between the various line departments and Railway Board directorates, including the Environment Directorate, is essential for effective implementation of sustainability strategies.
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