Germany’s rail operator Deutsche Bahn is under pressure: With the imminent abolition of nuclear energy in Germany new concepts for railway power are needed. This is why Dr. Rüdiger Grube, Chief Executive of Deutsche Bahn, and Dr. Jürgen Großmann, CEO of the important German energy provider RWE, signed a contract for the supply of electricity from hydropower plants last week. The total volume of the contract exceeds one billion euros. From 2014 to 2028 a total of 14
hydroelectric power stations will supply the trains with renewable energy. Thus, the German rail operator will annually receive around 900 million kilowatt hours of hydropower from RWE. This represents around 8% of
the demand for railway power.
With the contract, Deutsche Bahn increases its percentage of renewable energy in the railway power mix from currently 19.8% to around 28% in 2014. By this, the company comes a little closer to its future goals: by 2020 the proportion of green energy shall be about 35%, and the long-term vision is to switch the railway power supply completely to renewable energies by 2050.
RWE guarantees through certified origin, that power of its hydro power stations is fed into the grid in the scale of the physical electricity demand of Deutsche Bahn. By certified origins the green power fed into the grid can be assigned to a specific consumer.
Environmental groups criticized that by the contract the already existing green power is only redistributed. For example Christof Timpe of Germany’s research and consultancy institute Oeko-Institut stated in German television news program Tagesschau: “A real environmental benefit would only occur if the contract of Deutsche Bahn would also contribute to the building of new renewable power plants.” Austria and Switzerland, neighbor countries of Germany, already have a much higher share of renewables in their railway power – Switzerland: 75%, Austria: 93%. Due to geographical and historical reasons both countries have always had a very high proportion of hydroelectric power
The transport sector is Europe’s number one climate problem child. This is apparent from figures published recently by the European Environment Agency. After that, the greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the EU have increased by 29% since 1990. All other sectors have recorded significant declines: The industry came to a minus of 34%, in energy production the greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 17% and households can report savings of 14% since 1990. “For years, politicians are sitting out the maladministration of traffic,” said Dirk Flege, Managing Director of the German Allianz Pro Schiene (Pro- Rail Alliance). “The CO2 reduction in traffic is a pressing challenge that politicians must move in the focus. Therefore a shift in transportation is an important tool.” The Pro-Rail Alliance points out that the railway
is much more climate-friendly than the truck. Per transported ton per kilometer freight trains in Germany only emit a quarter of the CO2 of trucks. Better yet, looks the CO2 balance of the railway in Austria, where the railway power almost entirely comes from renewable sources: “Here we are talking about a factor of 15 in the comparison between rail and
truck,” said Flege. He welcomed that in the new EU White Paper “Traffic” for the first time a binding greenhouse gas reduction target of minus 60% by 2050 had been fixed for the entire transport sector. “If you look at the
development of the emissions from the transport sector in the past years, this goal is more than ambitious,” said Flege.