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Plan to use surplus land of railways to generate renewable energy

NEW DELHI: Indian Railways plans to use its surplus land to generate 20 GW of renewable energy from 'Made in India' solar or wind equipment to power its network, Commerce, Industry and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said on Wednesday.

He said Indian Railways will be a 100 per cent electricity-driven rail network in coming years which would make it the largest such network in the world.

"We plan to use a lot of our surplus land and land along the tracks to generate 20 GW (gigawatts). 'Made in India' solar or wind equipment being used to give us 20 GW production capacity of renewable energy and enough KW (kilowatt) hours to power our entire railway," Goyal said.

He was addressing CEEW India's programme on 'Powering Livelihoods: Transforming India's Rural Economy with Clean Energy Solutions'.

The railways may need to either expand battery storage or other forms of storage for this, he said. 

Urging the council to look at sectors such as cold storage, water and small textile powerlooms, Goyal said that the mission for Railways is to be 100% electrified by 2022. “By 2030, we will be a net zero carbon emitter. Today we are transporting 1.2 bn tonnes of freight. We hope that this will go up to 2.2 bn tonnes in the next 5 years and will be the world's first large railway of this dimension. There is a lot of surplus land and land across tracks to generate 20 GW of Made in India solar equipment or wind equipment in use. This will give us 20 GW production capacity of renewable energy and enough kilowatt hours to power our entire railway,” he stated.

Referring to the cold storage system, the minister added that conducive cold storage solutions with interplay of renewable energy can be of immense help especially in the peak hours for Railways.

Goyal also spoke about the plans of the government to ensure water reached every home by 2024. “RO plants will become the labour of the future. Connecting them with renewable energy to get clean drinking and cooking water is the way forward. Many areas have shortage of water. For example Tamil Nadu. Desalination of plants will be of immense help - not only does it make water available but it is also clean water,” he added.

Emphasising that the triangle of innovators & startups, industry and government is imperative to bring such solutions to scale, Goyal stated that such efforts can help to strengthen our ‘transmission network.’ He suggested the need to develop a viable electric cooking system for fast cooking which can be a big leg up for the plans laid out by the government. Such a system, he said, can offer a huge domestic manufacturing potential. “So far we have induction heating and electric cooking but it takes very long. Fast cooking mechanisms through electric cooking which can replace cooking gas will be a big boost. 280 million homes need cooking - if all of them can be converted into electric cooking, think of the scale, savings and potential in terms of carbon emission. Ultimately all of this can move to renewable energy,” he reasoned.

The virtual launch was also attended by Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, and Co-Chair of UN-Energy; and Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, among others. The Rs 22 crore initiative provides capital and technical support to Indian enterprises working on clean energy-based livelihoods solutions. It also recently offered a cumulative emergency funding of Rs 1 crore to six selected enterprises which could help them tide over the current crises caused by Covid-19.

Abhishek Jain, who is leading the initiative at CEEW, said, “Under Powering Livelihoods, we will help enterprises in the clean energy-based livelihoods sector to get better support from financiers, investors and policymakers. This will help them scale up and achieve meaningful impact.”

Over 40 lakh microenterprises in India indicate lack of electricity as the top bottleneck to their business. While about 60 clean energy innovations for livelihoods exist, their deployment on the ground is limited to hundreds, at best.

[source: The Economic Times, 26/08/2020]


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