Electricity, wind, solar, hydrogen… these energy sources emit little or no CO2. They are key to the “greening” of rail operations.
SNCF’s ambition is to arrive at zero CO2 emissions by 2050, when 10% of SNCF traffic is operated with diesel traction today.
To achieve this goal, the solution will be found in combining new on-board and on-the-ground technologies that meet the requirements of rail transport and use “decarbonised” energies, that is, ones that emit little or no carbon dioxide. Those energies are nuclear, wind, solar, and hydrogen.
In a very densely populated area like the Paris region, where robust rail services are crucial, the “greening” of the rail system will call for advances in power supply and saving of energy through the optimisation of train driving with sensors and AI.
The solution will also include “frugal” electrification, with costs controlled with technological solutions such as on-board storage batteries. This is a focus of the hybrid TER project.
The hybrid TER is powered by an optimal combination of energy sources used according to the situation (electrical power via catenaries, diesel engines, and energy stored in batteries). A prototype will go into regional commercial service in 2021.
The greening of rail operations and infrastructures will pick up speed as technological and financial obstacles are overcome. Although today these new technological solutions are all more costly than diesel power, the expected increase in the carbon tax (no doubt at least €100 per tonne of CO2, compared with €25 today) will make them more competitive with diesel.
Moreover, costs will go down as these innovations progressively come into wider use. This trend is already apparent owing to the growing political will to address these environmental issues.