Indian Railways (IR) is the country’s biggest energy consumer, using about 18.98 billion units (BUs) of power. Energy is the second biggest expenditure item for the organisation, accounting for about 23 per cent of its ordinary working expenses. Over the years, IR has undertaken a number of initiatives to better manage its energy costs. These include procuring cheaper power, improving the efficiency of power utilisation, stepping up its renewable energy capacity and engaging in power trade As a result, its electricity bill reduced from Rs 132.04 billion in 2014-15 to Rs 118.92 billion in 2017-18. The diesel bill too reduced from Rs 206.94 billion in 2014-15 to Rs 176.14 in 2017-18.
IR’s strategy and initiatives
In a significant departure from the past, IR’s Energy Plan, 2015, facilitated the direct procurement of power, assigned it deemed licensee status, and instituted Railway Energy Management Company Limited to manage the energy needs of the carrier. IR has also partnered with various ministries and international organisations such as the Ministry of Power, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United States Agency for International Development to prepare its energy plans. In addition, it is participating in the Bureau of Energy Efficiency’s Perform Achieve and Trade scheme which aims to improve energy efficiency in industries by trading in energy efficiency certificates in energy-intensive sectors.
Further, IR has also taken initiatives such as increasing the production of three-phase locomotives, shutting down locomotives and electrical multiple units when not in use, ensuring judicious use of hot/cold standby transformers in total suspended solid monitoring of regeneration and battery-cum-electric locomotives, conducting loco pilot-wise monitoring and fixing energy rations for each section.
In order to procure cheaper power, IR has entered into an agreement with NTPC Limited to set up a 1,000 MW thermal power plant (TPP) at Nabinagar. The TPP is being developed by Bharatiya Rail Bijlee Company Limited, a joint venture of NTPC Limited and IR in a 74:26 equity ratio. Of the 1,000 MW, 900 MW will be supplied to IR. So far, two units of 250 MW each have been commissioned and IR has already started sourcing power from them. The other two units, also of 250 MW each, are expected to be commissioned by 2019.
In order to reduce its fuel expenditure, IR has prepared an action plan to electrify 38,000 route km (rkm) in the five years 2017-18 to 2021-22 for achieving 100 per cent electrification on all broad gauge routes. In 2017-18, IR electrified 4,087 rkm as against the target of 4,000 rkm. The annual electrification targets for 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 are 6,000 rkm, 7,000 rkm and 10,500 rkm respectively. Further, Mission 41k has been launched with the aim of saving Rs 410 billion on IR’s expenditure on energy over the next 10 years.
Focus on unconventional energy sources
In its Vision 2020 document, IR has devised a plan to meet at least 10 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources. It has plans to set up 1,000 MW of solar power plants and about 200 MW of wind power plants by 2020-21. In 2018, the development of solar power units aggregating about 61 MW was completed. This includes the 16 KW solar power plant set up at the Sahibabad railway station. Further, about 36.5 MW of wind power capacity was created. Meanwhile, IR has signed power purchase agreements for setting up 130 MW of rooftop power plants, finalised tenders for 100 MW of rooftop solar plants, and awarded orders for 16.5 MW of wind power plants. By 2020, IR aims to meet 10 per cent of its total power requirement from renewable sources.
IR’s electricity requirements will continue to grow in the future as it pursues greater electrification. Its power requirements, even after taking efficiency measures, will triple by 2030 to 49 BUs. To meet its increasing energy requirements, IR is also exploring the feasibility of using alternative fuels such as bio-diesel, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas. That said, in the long run, IR will need to invest in the training and capacity building of personnel to implement new initiatives and measures. It will also need to take up more renewable energy projects.
Thus, IR’s energy requirements and plans present significant opportunities for power producers, renewable energy developers, technology providers and manufacturers of rolling stock and electrical equipment.
Based on a presentation by Manju Gupta, Additional Member, Electrical, Railway Board, at a recent India Infrastructure conference