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Energy Needs of Indian Railways: Emerging Requirements, Strategies and Solutions

The Lalit Hotel, New Delhi, 2017-04-06

Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) Consultant Charith Konda presented the key findings of the report, Decarbonization of Indian Railways: Assessing Balancing Costs and Policy Risks, at the Energy Needs of Indian Railways-Emerging Requirements, Strategies and Solutions conference held in New Delhi on 6th April, 2017. The conference was organized by India Infrastructure, PowerLine and RenewableWatch, sponsored by ABB and co-sponsored by Waaree Energies.

More than 40 organizations participated in the conference including UNDP, Indian Railway Organisation for Alternate Fuels, Indian Energy Exchange, Japan Int’l Consultants for Transportation, Central Railway, Tata Power, KPMG, National High Speed Rail Corporation and IREDA.

The new CPI report, which Charith Konda presented, assesses the costs and policy risks involved in complete decarbonization of the electricity demand from Indian Railways (IR) – transitioning from the current, largely fossil-fuel based energy mix to clean energy like solar and wind power.

The report takes an important look at the costs of load balancing. Because solar and wind power can be intermittent and variable, they will require load balancing, which requires use of technologies such as energy storage to ensure consistent supply of electricity that can meet the demand.

The key findings that Charith presented are:

  • The cost of 100% decarbonization would be 26-28% cheaper than the business-as-usual pathway (fossil-fuel based) by 2030. This is largely due to an anticipated continuous decrease in renewable energy costs.
  • Balancing costs will likely account for 5-8% of the total decarbonization costs in 2030, depending on the balancing technology chosen, gradually decreasing over time due to falling costs in balancing technology. Because of this, IR should aim to gradually ramp up the rate of decarbonization, accelerating from 2022, and achieve 100% decarbonization by 2030.
  • Balancing costs are minimized by using an optimal mix of largely wind power and some solar power, but IR should keep in mind the seasonality of wind power in India – that generation can fluctuate by season.
  • We’ve also identified several policy risks to decarbonization that IR could face, and recommend solutions to mitigate those risks.