MUMBAI: Indian Railways is expected to step up its renewable energy initiatives under new minister Piyush Goyal who was earlier heading the ministry of new and renewable energy.
Railways has an ambitious target to source 25% of its energy requirement from renewable energy sources by 2025 by setting up 5,000 mw of capacity, and solar and wind energy companies are hopeful that Goyal would push for scaling up the target and expanding the scope of the plan.
“The new railway minister is expected to carry his passion for renewable energy to the ministry and the railways will benefit immensely,” said Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman at infrastructure service provider Feedback Infra.
“Railway stations, tracks and land owned by them have potential to develop solar power which is abundantly available on most sites and reduce their dependence on external sources,” he told ET.
Indian Railways has one of the world’s largest rail networks and it’s the single largest consumer of electricity in the country, accounting for a little less than 2% of India’s total power generation.
Electricity accounts for 20% of Railways’ operational costs and former minister Suresh Prabhu had said that Rs 41,000 crore would be saved in ten years by increasing use of renewable energy.
“Indian Railways is moving away from buying power from state-owned discoms and looking at alternative and cheaper sources,” said Divya Charen, analyst at Fitch Group’s India Ratings & Research.
“Some discoms have even cut rates for them. But they will look increasingly at renewable energy for clean and cheap energy,” she said.
Earlier this year, Railways launched its first solar-powered DEMU (diesel electrical multiple unit) train from Safdarjung station in Delhi. It is also executing a plan to generate 500 mw of solar power on its land, which will power 8,000 stations.
Besides savings for Railways, thrust on renewable energy will boost order books of companies in this sector, experts said.
“A lot of work has been ongoing which presents a significant opportunity for equipment, installations, renewable integration, grid stability and load balancing, and remote monitoring for greater efficiency and minimising downtime,” said Sanjeev Sharma, managing director at ABB India.