Green Railways By 2030
Business Today|May 30, 2021
In order to reduce its carbon footprint, the entire Indian Railways network will be electrified by 2023. It will also instal 20GW of solar power by 2030
Ashutosh Kumar

INDIAN RAILWAYS moves 24 million passengers every day — a shade less than the population of Australia — on 13,000 trains, around 67,956 kilometres across the sub-continent. Add to that another 3.3 million tonnes of freight — 1,200 million tonnes during 2020/21 — daily, and the fuel needs are immense. As a result, the carbon footprint of the Indian Railways is mammoth. According to the railway ministry, the national transporter consumed 115.45 lakh kilo litres of high-speed diesel between 2014/15 and 2018/19. But, change is happening and that too rapidly.

In 2019/20, 43 per cent of passenger traffic was hauled by diesel locomotives, and 57 per cent by electric traction. That’s a sharp change from 2000/01 when diesel locomotives handled 56.1 per cent of passenger traffic and electric traction was much lower at 43.9 per cent. In freight, electric traction accounted for 64.7 per cent of the traffic in 2019/20 against 56.5 per cent in 2000/01. Diesel has fallen from 43.5 per cent to 35.3 per cent during the period.

Things are expected to alter dramatically over the next 10 years. In August 2020, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted that “by 2030, we will be a net-zero railway, our carbon emission will be zero… Ours will be the first railways of this scale to go green”.

The Indian Railways has massive plans to achieve this goal. One significant pillar of the plan is to achieve 100 per cent electrification of the network by December 2023. By then, it will be the world’s largest 100 per cent electrified rail transport system. The second pillar is using solar power to meet its electricity needs and having an environment-compliant infrastructure along with a microlevel cleanliness drive. A top railway ministry official told Business Today requesting anonymity, “The idea is to make the national transporter a role model in eco-friendly and sustainable green development.”

In 2019/20, the railways consumed about 18,410 mega units (MUs) for traction and 2,338 MUs for non-traction uses. It has already electrified over 70 per cent of its broad guage network. As on 31 March this year, 45,881 route kilometres (RKM) have been electrified. Over the last four fiscals, Indian Railways has been on an overdrive as far as electrifying the network is concerned. In 2020/21, a record 6,015 km was electrified despite disruptions caused due to the pandemic. In FY18, it electrified 4,087 km followed by 5,276 km in FY19 and 4,378 km in FY20.

INDIAN RAILWAYS' MISSION ZERO EMISSION 2030

100% Electrification by 2023

1,000Gw Solar capacity on station rooftops

30Gw Solar capacity on railway land

200Gw Wind power generation

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