Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent
Policy Brief

Greening the Tracks

Achieving the 1Gigawatt solar PV target of the Indian Railways

Aditya Ramji
June 2015 |

Suggested Citation: Ramji, Aditya. 2015. Greening the tracks: Achieving the 1-Gigawatt solar PV target of the Indian Railways. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.


The 1 GW Solar mission of railways was an initiative to establish the Indian Railways as one of the largest rail networks in the world, with a focused sustainability strategy. This study provides a techno-economic analysis to assess the potential of solar PV projects across various non-traction operations of the Indian Railways. The analysis includes diesel locomotive sheds, railway workshops, railway stations, railway offices, level crossing gates, and the use of vacant railway land.

This study is a preceding document to the policy brief, ‘Decarbonising the Indian Railways: Scaling Ambitions, Understanding Ground Realities'. It provides a summary of the feasible solar PV projects across railway workshops, diesel loco-sheds, and railway land. It also identifies key policy and regulatory challenges that developers face while supporting the Railways’ renewable energy push.

Emission savings (million tones of CO2) across railway operations with solar PV installations

Source: CEEW analysis, 2015

Key Findings

  • CO2 emissions from railway operations in India was around 4 million tonnes each year (till 2015) and was estimated to increase to about 6.7 million tonnes per annum by 2020-21.
  • The Railways could have cumulative emission savings of 12.5 Mt CO2 under a conservative estimate, and 45 Mt CO2 under an optimistic estimate.
  • The three railway zones - Northern, Central and South Central - together will help the Railways achieve 25 per cent of its 1 GW target.
  • About 5 per cent of the vacant railway land was to be diverted for the installation of large solar PV systems. With about 43,000 hectares of railway land vacant at the time, use of small proportion could add significant potential to installed solar PV capacity.
  • The Ministry of Railways had proposed a total of 61 solar PV projects across various offices under the Ministry at a total investment of INR 237.3 million, which could result in a total installed capacity of 0.76 MW of solar PV.
  • Seventeen out of 40 analysed railway workshops had the potential for commercially feasible solar PV installations.
  • Use of railway land for large solar PV along with solar PV installations at diesel loco-sheds and railway workshops, have the largest potential in terms of emission savings over the lifecycle of the plant.

Key Recommendations

  • Focus on development of solar PV projects in the three railway zones, namely, Northern Railway, Central Railway, and South-Central Railway, which could help achieve 25 percent of the Indian Railways’ 1 GW target.
  • Focus on 3 key priority areas: financing, modalities of land use for solar, and streamlining of institutional mechanisms.
  • Explore the possibility of innovative PPP modes, which would facilitate adequate financing for solar PV projects.
  • Facilitate detailed energy conservation plans and establish monitoring systems to document the performance of implemented projects. This would quantify the benefits accrued to the railways and result in deployment of solar panels or hybrid systems.
  • Take necessary proactive steps to ensure that the guidelines and policies are effectively implemented.
  • Map future expansion plans for vacant land. Identify suitable tracts to set up large solar PV projects so that the opportunity cost of land is minimal.
  • Coordinate with the various line departments and Railway Board directorates, including the Environment Directorate, for effective implementation of sustainability strategies.
  • Create a separate department within the railways which would coordinate and monitor environmental management initiatives across its various operations.

The highest potential in terms of emission savings would be from the use of railway land for large solar PV, along with installations at diesel loco-sheds and railway workshops.

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