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One in four trains could run on ‘direct’ supply from solar panels

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New Delhi, Sep 1: The direct supply of solar energy to Indian Railway lines — without the need to connect via the grid — would save almost seven million tons of carbon a year whilst also powering at least one in four train on the national network on competitive terms, a new study by Delhi-based Climate Trends and UK-based green tech start-up Riding Sunbeams said on Wednesday.

According to the Indian Railways 2019/2020 annual report, there was passenger traffic of over 8bn in that period, which would mean that 2bn passengers could be travelling on trains directly powered by solar energy.

Prime Minister Modi recently announced that the electrification of railways in India is progressing fast, and that the target is for the Railways to be a net-zero carbon emitter by 2030.

A mix of electrification, energy efficiency and a switch to renewable energy will be needed to enable this goal.

Rail Minister Piyush Goyal has issued a directive to Indian Railways to earmark huge areas of unproductive land for solar development as part of the company’s Net Zero commitment. Plans are already underway to deliver 20GW of solar generation to match growing demand for energy to move trains.

The new analysis highlights that around a quarter of this new solar capacity — up to 5,272 MW — could be fed directly into the Railway’s overhead lines instead of being procured over the electricity networks, reducing energy losses and saving money for the rail operator.

The researchers found that substituting energy supplied from the coal-dominated grid for private-wire supply from solar could also rapidly cut emissions by as much as 6.8 million tons CO2 each year — just over the entire annual emissions of Kanpur.

Report co-author, Riding Sunbeams founder and director of innovation Leo Murray said, “Right now India is leading the world on two vital climate frontiers — rail electrification and solar power deployment. Our analysis shows that connecting these two keystone low-carbon technologies together in Indian Railways can drive both India’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and its efforts to transition off fossil fuels to tackle the climate crisis.”

Report co-author and Director at Climate Trends Aarti Khosla told IANS, “Indian Railways plays an important role in the lives of every Indian. Not only is it the most practical mode of transportation, it is also the most famous and the largest employer in the country.

“The government pumps large sums of money to modernise the railways, which, in turn, will play a large role in a net zero vision of the nation. There has been analysis that converting all diesel locomotives to electric will indeed increase the emissions in the short term, however, this report shows the tremendous opportunity of doing it right the first time, by creating a direct connection of the locomotive system to solar PV installations, meeting more than a quarter of the total demand.”

The researchers also warned, however, that achieving the target of full electrification of all routes by 2023 could be accompanied by an increase in CO2 emissions in the short term because of India’s current reliance on coal to produce electricity.

The team analysed the traction energy demand on each of India’s railway zones and matched this with the potential solar resource in each region to produce a figure for the total amount of solar energy that could be connected directly to the railway to run trains.

The top five zones with the greatest solar-to-rail potential are: South Central Railway (394-625 MW) that serves Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Pondicherry.

The Central Railway (299-475 MW) that caters to Maharashtra; the Northern Railway (290-459 MW) that serves Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi; Western Railway (280-443 MW) that serves Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh; and West Central Railway (278-440 MW) that caters to Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and some parts in Uttar Pradesh.

The calculations assume that all of the energy generated by the solar is used by the Railways, and do not include the potential for battery storage integration. Factoring in lower utilization rates and storage could boost solar-to-rail potential to over 40 per cent of Indian Railways’ traction energy demand.

The study explores how strategic investment in dedicated freight corridors and new high speed routes can support Indian Railways to boost passengers and freight traffic, and the key role this can play in achieving India’s national climate change commitments.

The report also highlights the problem of Indian Railways’ dependence on coal, both as an energy source and as its key freight commodity, accounting for almost a third of its revenue in 2018-19.

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Maharashtra government tells HC, Param Bir Singh non-traceable

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Call me “Dada”, not “Sir”, Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb to employees

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Agartala: In what appears to be a step to boost the morale of the government employees, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Sunday asked the government employees to call him “Dada” instead of “Sir”. “Call me Dada, not sir. It enhances the warmth of the relationship”, Deb told a gathering of government employees.

Deb exhorted the government employees of the state especially ASHA and Anganwadi workers of the state asking them not to dishearten as the state government was eager to improve their pay structure.

“I salute the ASHA and Anganwadi workers of my state. The level of dedication that my sisters have shown during the pandemic period deserved applause. I know, they want to hear good news from me and I am assuring you all that this government will not disappoint anyone”, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb told a gathering of government employees at Badharghat sports school field organized by Vivekananda Vicha Manch (VVM).

VVM has emerged as a big platform of government employees, of late, and Sunday’s public rally was its first big gathering to thank the Chief Minister for the series of steps his government took for the welfare of the employees.

“I know what challenges you people are facing. Nothing is hidden in front of me. I am assuring you all everything will be taken care of in the due course of time”, he added.  Lauding the efforts of government employees Deb said, without them no government office can function.

“Due to the efforts of government employees, people can access the benefits of the state sponsored welfare schemes. But, for a prolonged period the employees did not get their right to do something freely. They were trapped in the clutches of unions. In the previous regime, Left sponsored unions used to enjoy supreme power which had reduced the whole work culture of the state to tatters. In 2018, you people showed courage and voted BJP to power”, said Deb.

“Despite fund constraints, the state government is positively working on the issues of DA and other factors pertaining to the interest of the government employees. Our government has already addressed a number of issues related to financial benefits. The ad-hoc promotion, increment for Group D, Group C employees, regularization of SSA teachers, seventh pay scale, UGC scale for professors, special benefit for LTC are to name a few. All these indicate what we want to do and we shall do what we promise”, the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister also asked the officials not to call him “sir” suggesting them to refer to him as “Dada” as it makes the relationship stronger and cherished. The Chief Minister also distributed clothes among children of Badharghat sports school during the programme. State BJP President Manik Saha, Minister Ram Prasad Paul, Minister Sushanta Chowdhury, MLA Mimi Majumder, state BJP Vice President and president of Vivekananda Vichar Manch Rajib Bhattacharjee also spoke on the occasion.

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