Railways essential to sustainable prosperity in India says Minister Prabhu

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 4 minutes
26 February 2015

NEW DELHI: Today India's Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu delivered his first Rail Budget, which includes a raft of low carbon measures.

The Minister announced a record railway investment of over Rs. 1 lakh crore (US$16 billion) for 2015-16, which covers plans to upgrade the country's rail infrastructure and services to utilize clean energy such as solar power and low carbon LED lights.

Parimita Mohanty, Director - Strategic Initatives, The Climate Group commented: “The setting up of 1,000 megawatts of solar PV power plants on India's railways and stations by private developers in the next five years is a very forthcoming initiative.

"Currently a large number of railway stations and related infrastructure have huge under-utilized buildings which may now be optimally used for solar. It is expected that such an initiative will largely ensure self-sufficiency and quality of electricity supply at remote railway stations in India. Here availability of reliable power supply is a challenge and so such infrastructure is hugely dependent on diesel. Besides providing reliable electricity supply to railway infrastructure, this initiative will also give clean power to nearby villages and streets while supplementing the 'last mile' connectivity of rural India.” 

Railways are the biggest consumer of electricity in India so there is a huge opportunity to slash energy consumption and related emissions. But despite this, India's annual railway fuel consumption actually sits at around 7% of the road transport sector's, and is also responsible for 80% less carbon dioxide emissions.

For this reason, Minister Prabhu says investing in railways is necessary for India's "ecological sustenance". During his Rail Budget Speech he stated: "Investment in Indian railways is an investment in our future. It is an investment in our sustainability. It is an investment for posterity."

To reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the Minister announced the adoption of energy efficient LED luminaries and appliances, as well as a detailed energy audit as part of an energy conservation drive, and an increase in the use of solar energy. He said: "Work is in full swing at the solar power plant at Katra station and is slated for completion in March 2015. Further, 1,000 MW solar plants will be set up by the developers on Railway/private land and on rooftop of Railway buildings at their own cost with subsidy/viability gap funding support of Ministry of NonRenewable Energy in [the] next five years."

A mission for water conservation and recycling will also be set up around India to further accelerate the low carbon transformation of its railways. 

Suresh Prabhuwho chaired the Climate Change Association India - an affiliate organization of The Climate Group in India since June 2009 until recently - was appointed to the Indian Cabinet as Minister for Railways last November.

He has long championed low carbon growth in the country, and his guidance has helped lead The Climate Group India to many of its achievements - including winning at the Parivartan awards earlier this year and India projects such as Bijli – Clean Energy for All and LED street lighting.

Krishnan PallassanaIndia DirectorThe Climate Group describes the Minister as “a true champion” of the low carbon economy stating: “Suresh Prabhu has been our leader, mentor and guide for all these years. He has walked the talk and inspired people, business, institutions and governments alike to take bold measures toward a low carbon future.”

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By Clare Saxon Ghauri

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