Indian Railways is the fourth largest route network in the world connecting over 8000 stations. Calculations for the year 2015 Indian Railways show that it accounted for (traction and non-traction combined) roughly around 1.5% of India total electricity consumption.
Being India’s largest power consumer, deficit in power supply has long been a concern for the Railways. According to one estimate, Railways’ power consumption will be growing at a CAGR of 7% every year during this decade – so nearly a doubling of power consumption. The fast-growing power consumption means Indian Railways RLS has put a lot of emphasis on measures like energy energy audits to find avenues to save energy. With the recently acquired ‘power purchaser’ status, it has also been making efforts to source power from renewable independent power producers (IPPs), with an overall plan of getting 10% of electricity from renewable energy.
So from India’s energy security point view, it is of relevance that Arun Jaitley focused on Railways in Budget 2017 and announced that solar energy will be used to power around 7000 railway stations in the ‘medium term’ – work is to immediately begin for 2000 of the stations. The announcement will help towards implementation of the scheme under Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) for setting up of 1000 MW of Grid-Connected Solar PV Power Projects by Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) and Government of India Organizations.
Apart from the focus on Railways, Budget 2017 contained the following perks to propel the Indian renewable energy sector:
- Second phase of solar park development will kick off to add further 20 GW of solar capacity.
- Reduction in basic customs duty, countervailing duty, special additional duty and excise duty on following items: solar tempered glass (it is expected to have only minimal impact for domestic solar manufacturing), machinery required for balance of systems operating on biogas/by-product hydrogen, materials used in manufacture of cast components of wind turbines, and machinery required for fuel cell based power generating systems.
- 18,452 villages identified in 2015 will be electrified by 1 March 2018 – the outlay for the next fiscal year has been bumped up by 43% to Rs4814 cr for this purpose. A portion of this electrification should happen through solar micro grids.