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Railways to set up 3GW solar capacity on vacant land

In what will add further heft to India’s credentials as a clean energy champion, state run Railway Energy Management Company Ltd. (REMCL) will tender, supervise and manage electricity supply from 3 gigawatt (GW) of solar plants that will be built on vacant Railway’ land.

In the union budget presented earlier this year, finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed to set up large solar power capacity alongside rail tracks, on land owned by Railways.

“The project will be divided into 3 phases of 1 GW each. First and third phase of 1 GW each will be on PPP basis under Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer model. Second phase of the project (1 GW) will be on ownership model of REMCL, which will be eligible for capital subsidy under CPSE investment scheme. The Railways have already identified suitable land to be leased to REMCL on nominal lease rent,” the company said in a statement.

REMCL is a subsidiary of state-run transport engineering consultant RITES Ltd; wherein 51% stake is held by it and the balance by Indian Railways.

The national carrier has a rail network of around 125,000 km, the world’s largest, under a single management. It also has large tracts of land along its network, which will be used to set up solar power generation capacities. Indian Railways plans to become “net zero” carbon emitter by 2030. India is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, and is among countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“REMCL is mandated to handle entire Power procurement under open access for Indian Railways besides handling renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. REMCL is presently handling about 74% of the traction power of Railways through open access mechanism,” the statement added.

The previously articulated plan will also help the national carrier reduce its power procurement costs. With a requirement of about 12 billion units of electricity a year, Indian Railways’ power consumption has been growing at an average 5% a year. The railways plan to source 10% of its electricity needs through renewable energy sources by 2020.

The Railways’ plan assumes importance as India has 34.6 GW of solar power and 38GW of wind power, and runs the world’s largest clean energy programme.