Telangana’s gradual shift towards renewable energy-powered public transport system is resulting in savings worth millions and earning the state agencies plaudits from the public.
Utilising clean energy, primarily solar, in various parts of the state’s transport infrastructure – road transport, airport and metro – and transitioning to electric vehicles are some of the ways that Telangana, a state in southern India that was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, is making the shift to reduce its carbon emissions, one of the primary drivers of climate change and save power costs.
The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation, for example, joined hands with Telangana State Renewable Energy Development Corporation Limited, the state’s nodal agency on clean energy, to install solar rooftop systems on the bus stations, bus depots and workshops.
“It all started in 2019-’20 after we joined hands with the TSREDCO [Telangana New and Renewable Energy Development Corporation Limited] and started using solar power on our premises to fulfil our energy needs,” a senior official from the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation told Mongabay-India while requesting anonymity. “There are 97 bus depots and 364 bus stations in Telangana. On most of them, solar rooftop panels have been installed while work to install them on the remaining ones is going on.”
“By switching partially to clean energy, we saved about Rs 2.26 crore per annum and reduced carbon emissions by around 7,300 tonnes/year,” the official claimed.
In addition to the bus stations, the local authorities are also using solar power for traffic signals. “In Hyderabad, 221 traffic signals are connected with solar panels for their energy needs while another 150 automatic traffic signals are in the process of getting connected with solar power,” a senior official from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation told Mongabay-India. “Additional 100 pelican signals are also in the pipeline (to be connected to solar power).”
Net-zero by 2050
The Hyderabad airport, managed by the GMR Group, has installed 10 megawatts of solar power over the years to reduce its dependence on thermal power.
Pradeep Panicker, Chief Executive Officer of the GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited told Mongabay-India that the airport’s peak power consumption was around 2,00,000 units per day pre-Covid-19 and at present, the power consumptions stood at around 1,30,000 units for airport operations.
The official added that after the recent installation of an additional 5 MW of solar power, 50% of its energy requirements would be met through solar power being generated by about 30,000 solar panels installed over an area of 45 acres.
“There will also be a reduction in carbon footprint by about 28 lakh kilogram carbon dioxide which is equivalent to saving 140,000 full-grown trees,” Panicker said, while adding that the airport would achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Airport officials say that with solar power the airport is reducing the dependency on power from the Telangana State Electricity Board by 12 million units per year, thereby saving around Rs 90 lakhs per month.
The metro rail in Telangana’s capital city, Hyderabad, is also following the clean energy path with the installation of solar power plants to reduce its dependency on coal-based power.
“In 2020-21, Hyderabad Metro Rail consumed 57 million units [no commercial operations for 169 days due to lockdown] out of which approximately 17.5% was from captive solar plants. Hyderabad Metro Rail has installed 8.35 MWp of captive solar plants,” KVB Reddy, Managing Director of L&T Hyderabad Metro Ltd told Mongabay-India.
He informed that his organisation installed solar panels at the open space within its two metro depots and on the rooftop of 28 metro stations while adding that they have also installed more than 50 electric vehicle charging points at 17 metro stations.
EAS Sarma, Visakhapatnam-based former union power secretary, applauded Telangana’s progress. “Telangana has taken several measures to shift the electricity generation system to renewable sources. In the case of solar power, they have aggressively encouraged solar rooftop systems unlike Andhra Pradesh which is relying on centralised solar plants,” he said while adding that Telangana has 171 MW of rooftop solar generation capacity at present.
Though the state government is taking steps to move towards the adoption of clean energy, some officials admit that a 100% switch to clean energy for transport needs may not be feasible in the near future due to the restrictions associated with clean energy sources.
“There are issues of production of solar energy during cloudy days and nights … there are options of storage of solar energy but they are too costly,” the official told Mongabay-India requesting anonymity. “Telangana is exploring such options too. Moreover, the high cost of solar equipment is another challenge against scaling up solar power on a massive scale in the state.”
In addition to the adoption of solar power for the public transport system, Telangana is also looking at the rapid adoption of electric vehicles including buses to reduce air pollution.
According to Telangana State Road Transport Corporation, there are 40 electric buses running in Hyderabad to ferry passengers to the airport and they plan to expand it to other parts of the state soon.
However, officials in the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation claimed that the high ticket price for electric buses is still a deterrent towards this becoming a popular choice.
An official of the Telangana New and Renewable Energy Development Corporation Limited said that after the state’s electric vehicle policy of 2020, consumers are increasingly showing interest in moving to electric vehicles.
“Since last year, more than 7,000 electric vehicles (including all categories) have been sold in the state. Several electric vehicles manufacturers like Olectra, Triton and others in the sector have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with us to manufacture e-vehicles in Telangana,” DV Ramakrishna Kumar, who is Telangana New and Renewable Energy Development Corporation Limited’s project director, told Mongabay-India.
According to the data of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Telangana has 62 public charging stations/battery swapping points (managed by oil marketing companies) for electric vehicles.
“There are now 111 public charging stations in Telangana while 138 more are coming with the assistance of the union government,” said Ramakrishna Kumar.
This article first appeared on Mongabay.