Indian Railways likely to become world’s first ‘net-zero’ carbon emitter by 2030

Synopsis: Indian railways announced a grand plan to achieve net-zero carbon emission. But the plan might face a few challenges in implementation.


Indian Railways has recently announced ambitious plans to become a ‘net-zero’ carbon emitter by 2030.

Read more: What is net zero target? How fair and realistic these targets are?
About Indian Railways and its carbon emissions

Indian Railways is the world’s fourth-largest railway network in terms of size. It is also one of the largest electricity consumers in the country.

It transports 24 million passengers every day — slightly less than Australia’s population. In addition, Indian Railways also sends 3.3 million tonnes of freight per day — 1,200 million tonnes in 2020/21. Therefore, Indian Railways has a massive carbon footprint.

India’s transport sector contributes to 12% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions with the railways accounting for about 4% of these emissions.

What are Indian Railways plans to become a net-zero emitter? 

Indian Railways goal is to become a ‘net-zero’ carbon emitter by 2030. And it has ambitious plans to accomplish this goal. The plan includes:

Electrify Entire Rail Network: Indian Railways plans to electrify the entire rail network by December 2023. Electric trains are considered less polluting than trains that run on diesel since they do not directly emit carbon dioxide.

Shift to Solar Energy: Indian Railways plans to use solar power to meet its electricity needs. It plans to install 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar for both traction loads (trains) and non-traction loads (offices, railway stations etc).

Read more: Net Zero Emissions Target for India – Explained, Pointwise
What are the projects launched by Indian Railways to achieve the Net Zero Emissions?

Indian Railways has built a 1.7-MW solar power plant in Bina, Madhya Pradesh in 2020. It is the first solar energy plant in the world to directly power railway overhead lines, from which locomotives draw traction power.

The Ministry of Railways has started a 2.5-MW solar project in Diwana, Haryana, with state transmission unit connectivity. The 50 MW of power generated by the plant will be used to power trains. 

The Ministry of Railways has also installed solar panels at over 960 stations and is using solar power to meet railway station energy needs.

Challenges faced by the Indian Railways in terms of solar plant proliferation

No-objection certificate for open access: Open access has been granted as a deemed licensee in 11 states and the Damodar Valley Corporation area. However, no objection certificate (NoC) for open access to electricity flow for railways in some states has not been operationalised due to regulatory challenges.

Wheeling and banking provision: Full deployment of solar potential will become more feasible if states provide wheeling and banking arrangements.

What can be done to achieve Indian Railway plans?

According to a study by Niti Aayog, by shifting freight to rail and optimising truck use, India can reduce logistics costs from 14-10% of Gross Domestic Product and carbon dioxide emissions by 70%  by 2050 compared to a business-as-usual scenario. 

So, Indian Railways can implement operational steps toward last-mile linkage to raise its ambition beyond the official target of 50% freight share by 2030, up from its current share of 33%.

Source: This post is based on the articleIndian Railways likely to become world’s first ‘net-zero’ carbon emitter by 2030 published in Down To Earth on 21st October 2021.

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