By Mary Jane Maxwell
The New Delhi railway station uses the sun to help power the 400 trains that cross its 16 platforms every day.
“The railway station is now generating its own clean energy, saving on its electricity bills, and also ensuring a low carbon footprint,” said Matthew Mendis, an energy expert with the U.S. company Nexant. His company is involved with the project, backed by the U.S. and India, that helped to install solar panels on the railway stations’ rooftops.
At least 800 railway stations in India now rely on solar to help generate their own clean energy. This is a boon for Indian Railways, Asia’s largest railway network, which moves around 23 million people every day — nearly the entire population of Australia.
Indian Railways is already the country’s largest energy consumer, and demand by its consumers and others will increase in coming years. In fact, overall energy demands in India are slated to grow by more than 250 percent by 2050 as the nation modernizes its infrastructure and economy and standards of living rise.
The New Delhi station project was part of a larger, six-year clean energy program begun in 2012 by India, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State.
Now completed, the program, called the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy–Deployment Technical Assistance (PACE-D TA), generated $793 million in clean energy investments in India, including the installation of 225 megawatts of solar rooftop panels — enough energy to power over 330,000 homes in India.
The program also trained more than 6,000 utility engineers, who are now capable of facilitating “rooftop solar,” or “smart grid” projects, across India. So although the PACE-D TA program ended in May 2018, “its legacy will continue,” Mendis said.
A long-standing partnership
India needs to expand its economy by 8 percent a year, said Anurag Mishra, a USAID energy specialist who helped manage the PACE-D TA program, in order “to accommodate the 1 million young Indians entering the labor force every month and help lift 300 million Indians out of extreme poverty.”
That kind of rapid economic growth depends on energy security, as well as strong, reliable partnerships with countries that will work to advance India’s energy priorities, he said.
As the PACE-D TA program demonstrated, the United States has “the energy resources, technologies and the expertise in the public and private sector to support India’s energy strategy and its highly ambitious renewable energy target,” Mishra said.