With the aim of saving costs and achieving a lower carbon footprint, Indian Railways (IR) has made 100 per cent electrification a key priority. It plans to electrify around 28,000 route km (rkm) by 2021-22 to ensure 100 per cent electrification of its broad gauge rail network. IR is also aggressively pursuing cost-saving measures. As energy bills are an important component of operating expenses, efforts are being made to reduce them. At a recent conference organised by India Infrastructure, Manju Gupta, additional member, electrical, Railway Board, shared her perspective on IR’s electrification targets and the progress so far, key initiatives being taken to enhance energy efficiency, future targets and plans, and the next steps to ensure sound implementation on the ground. Excerpts…
IR is following a multipronged strategy to optimise its energy consumption. During 2018-19, the electricity bill accounted for about 7.5 per cent of ordinary working expenses of the national carrier. The total electricity consumption was about 20 billion units (BUs), of which 18 BUs was utilised for meeting traction requirements and the remaining 2 BUs was consumed for non-traction applications. Besides, about 3 billion litres of diesel was also consumed.
An energy reduction target of about 1 per cent in the passenger segment and about 3.5 per cent in the freight segment has been finalised for electric traction. For traction needs that are met through diesel, the target has been set at about 2 per cent. Overall, the energy saving target for the entire railway sector is 33,248 metric tonnes of oil equivalent.
The national carrier has been accorded open access and made a deemed licensee under the third provision of Section 14 of the Electricity Act, 2003, as per which it can source electric traction power directly from the market.
Currently, about 1,300 MW of electricity is being sought under open access in states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Haryana, Karnataka, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This has resulted in significant cost savings for traction-related electricity needs. Since 2015, the unit cost has come down from Rs 6.73 per unit (2014-15) to Rs 5.75 per unit (2018-19).
Further, IR is also stepping up its renewable energy capacity. Its current strategy entails extensive use of renewable energy, to the tune of 1,200 MW (1,000 MW of solar- and 200 MW of wind-based capacity) by 2020-21. The move is expected to pare the cost of non-traction power.
Of the 1,000 MW of solar capacity, 500 MW will be on rooftops of railway buildings (through the developer mode for meeting non-traction loads) and the remaining 500 MW will be set up through land-based systems (primarily through the developer mode to meet traction loads). Switching to solar will reduce 1.62 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions emanating from IR annually.
With regard to the planned 500 MW of solar rooftop capacity, as of October 2019, 92.2 MW has already been set up, 179 MW is under construction, and survey works for another 228 MW of capacity are under way.
Of the 200 MW of wind power capacity planned by 2020-21, 103 MW of wind plants have already been established. These include a 10.5 MW plant at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, a 26 MW plant at Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, and a 50.4 MW plant at Sangli district, Maharashtra (to meet traction loads), and another 6 MW plant at the same location to meet non-traction loads. With regard to solar-wind hybrid facilities, about 140 MW of plant capacity is at the tendering stage, as of October 2019.
Over the past five years, energy consumption for non-traction purposes has declined from 2.48 BUs to 2.27 BUs. This has been despite the increase in loads, including installation of lifts, escalators, etc. at many railway stations, as well as addition of railway assets on station buildings such as air-conditioned waiting rooms and new platforms. With regard to equipment use, only star-rated efficient equipment has been deployed. A major development in this regard has been the large-scale deployment of LED lights at stations (resulting in annual savings of Rs 500 million), as well as at service buildings, residential quarters, etc.
Further, energy audits are being conducted by IR, with the aim of accelerating energy savings. The lighting and air-conditioning loads in IR’s offices, colonies, workshops, sheds, etc. are being regularly monitored to reduce wastage. Pumping installations are also monitored to prevent water wastage/leakage. In addition, the separation of 70 per cent and 30 per cent lighting circuits on platforms is also being done at railway stations.
Reduction in traction energy is a cornerstone of the strategy. Induction of high horsepower (HP) energy efficient three-phase electric/ regenerative locomotives, electric multiple units and mainline electric multiple units are other important steps being taken by IR.
Since March 2016, IR has stopped the production of conventional locomotives. Production of diesel locomotives too has been stopped from March 2019. Deploying head-on-generation trains, monitoring of energy consumption by locomotives through microprocessor-based energy meters, shifting of more trains from diesel to electric traction, grounding of locomotives with a life of over 31 years, continuous monitoring of regeneration for each locomotive pilot, and plans to develop battery-cum-electricity operated 1,400-1,600 HP, 25 kV locomotives are other key initiatives being taken to reduce energy consumption and costs.
Further, IR has also issued directives for Energy Conservation Building Code compliance in new buildings as well as for redevelopment of existing station buildings.
IR is also a part of the Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) programme under the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. Under the PAT Cycle II programme, 16 zonal railways and six production units have been included. IR expects to receive energy saving certificates or ESCerts to the tune of Rs 35 million. The overall energy efficiency programme of IR has been carried out in two phases – the first phase was implemented in 2016-17 and the second in 2018-19.
In the first phase, 250 energy efficiency opportunities were identified in 10 units (six production units and four workshops). IR has reported savings to the tune of Rs 73 million as a result of the efficiency measures. Significant energy efficiency potential has been assessed in the projects selected in the second phase.
IR’s electricity requirements will continue to grow in the future as it pursues greater electrification. Significant efforts are being made to save costs associated with the its energy consumption. More renewable energy projects are also being taken up to reduce dependence on conventional power. Notable progress has been witnessed and this is likely to continue in the years ahead. This certainly bodes well for the national carrier’s financial standing.