HSR & Renewable Energy

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), said that “high speed rail is the most practical, environmentally responsible and energy efficient way to transport people safely and comfortably over moderate distances. It will put people back to work and help ensure the future health of our planet.”

An integral approach is essential to ensure that high speed rail systems remain a viable option for the future. In addition to having innovative technology and comfort, high speed trains have to be efficient and environmentally friendly. High speed trains offer maximum transport efficiency as hundreds of travelers can be transported on one train in a frequent manner. At the same time, due to the aerodynamic optimization of high speed trains’ designs – equipment is fully encased and refined – the trains use less energy to travel.

According to Renewing America: A Blueprint for Economic Recovery, a report by Environment America, high speed rail is estimated to consume approximately 42 percent less energy per passenger-mile than intercity car travel and 30 percent less energy per passenger-mile when compared to plane travel.

Electrically powered high-speed train systems would draw electric power from overhead wires connected to the commercial power grid and, in braking, would regenerate electricity back to the power grid, thereby conserving power and reducing costs.

The overall result of high speed rail is reduced energy consumption and reduced CO2 emissions that also benefit our environment.

A German Example

Under the name DB Eco Program, German rail carrier Deutsche Bahn (DB) has introduced an environment protection program with which the company intends to reduce its CO2 emissions and pave the way to zero-carbon rail transport. The company focuses on wind energy to power a part of their high speed trains (ICE). In January 2010, DB signed a contract with a wind farm for the supply of 59 gigawatt / hour per year until 2020. The generated wind power will fuel up to six ICE trains out of a total of 250 trains. The company already employs renewable sources for 16 percent of its energy needs, a share that in the next 20 years should increase up to 30 percent.

With the DB Eco Program, Deutsche Bahn is demonstrating how the integrated mobility and logistics offerings of the DB Group are contributing to environmental relief and climate protection today and in the future.

Since the spring of 2009, DB has been offering zero-carbon rail transport to corporate clients. This is achieved by determining the electricity volumes based on the concrete stretches and train classes and subsequently purchasing these volumes from local power plants in the form of renewable electricity. The zero-carbon ticket offer is being made use of by an increasing number of large companies and it has already been extended to include other customer groups, including rail freight and school trips. In 2010, the company also wants to start offering tickets to private customers.