Home / Politics / Policy /  Will railways walk its green talk?

New Delhi: The railways will build wind power generation capacity of 75 megawatts (MW) and use solar power at 1,000 level crossings across the country to cut dependence on diesel and grid electricity.

The railways uses about 12 billion units of electricity a year, with consumption growing at an average 5% every year.

The fuel bill of Indian Railways is estimated to increase by 5,100 crore in the year starting 1 April due to an increase in electricity tariffs and diesel prices, railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said. The government removed pricing of diesel from the purview of the administered price mechanism in January and allowed retailers to set prices for bulk diesel buyers. Bansal’s announcement is similar to proposals made by former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi in his budget last year. Trivedi had announced setting up 72MW wind power plants in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal to help the railways avail fiscal incentives, including tax breaks and depreciation benefits, besides a chance to earn carbon credits. Trivedi had also announced plans to use solar energy to run 200 stations and provide lighting systems at 1,000 manned, level-crossing gates.

Most of the projects announced last year were in their tendering stage, a railway ministry official said, requesting anonymity. “We are availing subsidies under the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF). These projects take time because first they go to the new and renewable energy ministry (MNRE) and then they go to finance ministry to get approval for funds under NCEF," the official said.

So far as last year’s promises go, “the railway ministry has got sanctions from some projects from us and have also availed of subsidies for the same," said Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary, ministry of new and renewable energy.

The former railway minister had promised a range of green measures in last year’s budget but nothing seems to have happened, said an expert with a New Delhi-based energy research institute, requesting anonymity.

“There is nothing concrete on ground related to the measures introduced last year," the expert said. “While a lot of planning has been done, lot more has to be done at the ground level."

On Tuesday, Bansal also announced the setting up of Railway Energy Management Company for solar and wind energy capacities to reduce the dependence of the national transporter on power supplied by state electricity boards, which is costly and often erratic.

According to an MNRE official who did not want to be identified, a vision document prepared by the railways, says the carrier plans to meet 10% of its energy requirement through renewable energy by end of March 2017.

“They have said they will generate 400MW of wind power and 100MW of solar power by then. Railways has a lot of potential for rooftop solar power generation. According to our estimates, they can generate more than 200MW of solar power only through rooftop solar as they have a lot of roof space available at stations, buildings and workshop," said the official.

India has an installed power generation capacity of 210,952MW, of which 12.3% or 25,856MW is renewable energy. While there is interest in developing wind energy sources from conventional power generation utilities, the funding of such efforts has become a concern. It takes capital expenditure of 4.2-4.5 crore per MW of power generated through coal-based or gas-based projects, compared with wind-based projects requiring 6-7 crore per MW.

Bansal also announced a ban on the use of plastic in catering and said the use of agro-based and recycled paper should be encouraged. He added that a chair at The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) will be set up to promote railway related research to reduce railway’s carbon footprint. However, a Teri spokesperson said that the chair will be set up at Teri University.

India’s national action plan on climate change recommends that the country generate 10% of its power production from solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable sources by 2015, and 15% by 2020.

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