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To cut cost, railways to set up solar plants on its vacant land
In a bid to lower its operating ratio (the amount it spends as a proportion of the amount it earns) , which is currently at its highest level at 111%, the Indian Railways plans to utilise its vacant land to set up solar power plants of 30 gigawatt (GW) capacity.
At present, for every Rs 100 the railways earns, it spends Rs 111.
Indian Railways plans to set up plants to generate 10 GW under the first phase of the initiative. This will also aid the railways in lowering its energy bill of around Rs 30,000 crore each year.
“It has been decided that there is a potential to set up 30 GW solar power [plants] in which we will be having solar panels along the tracks and unutilized land.In the first phase we will be going for only 10 GW and the formalities for the same are being worked out. Solar Energy Corporation of India (SEC) will most likely be tasked to issue the tender,” an official at the ministry of railways said on condition of anonymity.
The new numbers are a significant increase over the previous target of 1,000 MW (or 1 GW) of solar power and 200 MW of wind energy by 2020. The old plan also involved 500 MW solar power generated through rooftop installations across all 8,000 railway stations in the country.
“ We had earlier planned 1 GW of power mostly for non-traction purposes, 500 MW for land based and 500 MW on rooftop (work for ) which is already going on across all stations. The 500 MW land-based solar plant was to be set up on the Madhya Pradesh government’s land. Now we are planning to go beyond that and do it on railways’ land. We have 51,000 hectares of vacant land and we have to identify which patch will be suitable for this,” the official added.
Non-traction power involves the use of electricity for powering the stations while traction refers to the overhead cables used for powering locomotives.
“We will be meeting outrtraction requirement through this which is 3 GW. Further, 7 GW will be utilized by state DISCOMS,” he said.
The national transporter has been struggling to get No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from state governments for using transmission lines following Central Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (CERC) order granting it a deemed distribution licensee status.
“So far only 10 states and Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) have granted us No Objection Certificates (NOCs). while West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have refused” the official said.
Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan have granted the NOCs .
“It is a feasible plan but the land utility and accessibility in terms of interference with the running line will have to be worked out. The required line capacity will need to be augmented and it will have to be seen what kind of clauses they will put in for long term leases. These small initiatives, at the end of the day should not deter them from taking big steps in improving the unit cost of operations,” said Abhay Agarwal, Partner EY.