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Long Term Energy and Emissions Implications of Global Shift to Electricity-Based Public Rail Transit System

Exploring Energy and Global Warming Implications of the Transition to Alternative Refrigerants, Implementation of Best P

Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Son H. Kim
June 2015 |

Suggested Citation:Chaturvedi, Vaibhav, and Son H. Kim. 2015. "Long term energy and emission implications of a global shift to electricity-based public rail transportation system." Energy Policy 81: 176-185.


This journal paper examines the long-term energy and emission implications of an electric rail-based passenger transportation system for meeting long and short distance passenger transportation needs. It analyses a suite of scenarios with and without climate policy. It models scenarios related to a high share of electric rail in meeting passenger service demands to find its impact under the business as usual (BAU) and under a climate policy scenario.

Key Findings

  • Electric rail policy is more successful than an economy wide climate policy in reducing transport sector energy demand and emissions.
  • An electric rail policy would reduce direct emissions from the transportation sector by 8–49 per cent in 2095. It would reflect a 4–20 per cent decline in the transportation final energy consumption in 2095.
  • Economy wide emissions however can only be reduced through a broader climate policy, the cost of which can be reduced by hundreds of billions of dollars across the century when implemented in combination with the transport sector focused electric rail policy.
  • Final energy consumption in the transportation sector would decline by 17–44 per cent in 2095 under the combined climate and rail share scenarios relative to the reference scenario.
  • After 2050, the share of low-carbon light-duty vehicles (LDV) would increase to 20 per cent of global passenger service.
  • Due to increased penetration of alternative fuels like electricity, the final energy intensity of passenger transportation services in the developed economies is expected to decline at a faster rate compared to the developing economies.
  • Higher share of electric rail enhances energy security for oil importing nations and reduces vehicular congestion and road infrastructure requirement as well.
Economy wide carbon price policy will have little impact on transportation emissions. Focused energy and emission mitigation policies are required for the transportation sector.

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