Infrastructure investment to accelerate rail decarbonisation | So Good News


Technology supplier ABB believes that a localized, personalized approach is the way forward as the rail industry aims to achieve decarbonisation. Therefore, investment decisions regarding rail electrification infrastructure should be made depending on which rail network is being developed.

As well as considering this point of view, ABB shares how the company is maximizing the benefits of electrification, the importance of low carbon technologies and its efforts to upgrade Metro Train’s Melbourne Hurstbridge Line.

Jasleen Mann talks to Antonio Colla, global rail marketing and sales manager at ABB, about the rail industry’s potential for decarbonisation.

Jasleen Mann (JM): How can infrastructure affect the decarbonisation of railways?

Antonio Colla (AC): There is no doubt that the global rail industry is facing a challenging time as it moves towards net zero targets, all while meeting the soaring demand of now and remaining poised for future growth.

The good news is that we already have many of the low-carbon technologies needed to make this transition happen. However, this must be met with significant investment in improving infrastructure to support deployment and unlock the full potential of sustainable alternatives.

While we continue to see the rapid acceleration of investment in rail electrification, for example, at the same time, we are now dealing with an evolving electricity grid amid increased renewable integration and global energy uncertainty. Therefore, efficient and intelligent electrification infrastructure that enables electric trains to not only draw power from the grid, but properly control that power, will be key to overall reliability and efficiency.

JM: What is meant by local dynamics and how does this affect the decarbonisation of railways?

AC: From our vast experience working in the global rail industry for more than 100 years, we understand that rail operations can vary dramatically from country to country.

This can include everything from demand volume and future forecasts, to the conditions of the rail lines themselves, associated local and national power generation facilities and even seasonal factors.

Much also depends on the broader political framework and net zero goals. Take for example the world’s second largest network, Indian Railways. Due to its high energy consumption, India’s national rail network has pledged to fully electrify its tracks by 2023 and achieve net zero emissions by 2030 in an industry first – a move estimated to help India achieve five percent of the Paris Agreement. goal.

Conversely, the EU has committed to doubling the use of high-speed rail by 2030 in an effort to bridge missing transport links across the continent, increase interoperability and increase cross-border rail services. The mission here is to offer a much more practical, more sustainable cross-border alternative to flying or driving via, ultimately, realizing a single European network.

In this way, while the end goal of achieving the decarbonisation of railways may be the same, different networks and regions may take different paths to achieve it.

JM: What challenges arise with a one size fits all approach?

AC: Inherently, because no rail network is the same, a standardized approach will always fall short by not meeting network-specific needs.

Rather, very positive results can be achieved, particularly in terms of reducing climate impact, by tackling rail infrastructure projects on a much more tailored collaborative basis. That’s why ABB always goes to great lengths to offer a localized, personal approach in line with high requirements.

For us, it’s not just about providing the innovation, but building deeper, more meaningful relationships that empower network operators to meet both future goals and current needs through shared expertise, education and expectations. We recognize that each rail operator is on their own sustainability journey and want to work with them to help amplify their climate impact.

JM: What is the importance of electrification?

AC: It is no surprise that the electrification of rail infrastructure forms such a major focus of net zero strategies. After all, electric traction is not only an environmentally friendly, pollution-free and energy-efficient mode of transport, but it can be powered by renewable energy sources.

Importantly, too, it offers the only viable option available to meet the operational need for high-speed and long-haul routes, as well as for freight. This is because, although recent developments in battery and hydrogen-powered trains hold great promise, the associated range and performance limitations mean they are likely to be used for parts of the network that run light passenger trains.

In this way, large investments in railway electrification will be the key to achieving the sustainable development goals set by the railway sector.

JM: How can ABB maximize the benefits of electrification?

AC: One of the other major advantages of rail electrification is the possibility of self-generation.

For example, the ABB Enviline Energy Storage System can be placed along the DC line so that excess regenerative braking energy can be captured and injected directly back into the line to support the acceleration of other nearby trains. The ability to harness the regenerative energy used in this cycle hundreds of times a day provides the single largest opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of traction systems and reduce grid demand. It can reduce total energy consumption by up to 30 percent.

The system can also be used to handle voltage drops to keep trains running on schedule – all without the associated grid-based power requirement. This reduces associated utility costs and can also be used, in some cases, as an option to avoid or postpone potential capital investment for new traction stations and additional contracts with utility companies.

It also provides assurance of critical power backup where, in the event of power outages or utility grid instability, operators can access stored energy to move the train to the next station where commuters can safely exit the train.

To take self-generation one step further, the ABB Enviline Energy Recuperation System can instead be installed at the DC traction substation, allowing braking energy to be fed directly back into the AC supply grid. It also makes it possible for operators to negotiate a more competitive contract based on estimated own production and reactive power compensation.

JM: How did the Metro Trains Melbourne project develop?

AC: Metro Trains Melbourne (Metro) Hurstbridge Line upgrade project offers a perfect demonstration of the benefits of roadside energy storage in action.

Faced with a gap in energy supply on its popular Hurstbridge line, Metro sought a solution that would address overall power quality, ensure a smoother, more reliable journey for passengers and in turn enable an increase in frequency on the line.

Enter the Australian first application of ABB’s 1500 VOLT DC ABB ESS designed to store and return excess braking energy back to the line for Metro service. As well as overcoming the problems of power quality and voltage failure, the unique energy management system has enabled a 15 per cent reduction in carbon emissions through energy recycling – as well as increasing sustainability, allowing new trains to be added at a lower cost than usual. and creates a smoother ride.

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