Investigation of the potential for PV energy supply to reach net energy neutrality in the railway infrastructure by 2030
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As of today, more organisations act on their Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) and acknowledge their contributions to environmental impacts. ProRail, responsible for the Dutch railway network, is one of these organisations and set clear sustainability goals as a result. One of these goals is to reach energy neutrality in 2030. To reach this goal, renewable energy on ProRail assets is needed to ensure the energy demand is met annually. As a result, this study investigated the potential of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy and the implementation within the ProRail infrastructure to contribute to this goal. The perspective of the 2030 energy demand of ProRail was investigated with scenario creation. Two frozen technology scenarios were created which showed increases in the energy demand due to the expected rise in train passengers. In addition, an energy efficiency scenario was constructed that contained proposed energy efficiency improvements that significantly contribute to a 22% reduction in energy consumption. Despite this demand reduction, the analysed energy efficiency measures were not sufficient to reach a 30% reduction in the energy demand compared to 2015 levels. ProRail pursued this goal from 2015 onwards with yearly 2% energy efficiency improvements. As a result of this finding, additional energy efficiency improvements need to be explored and implemented. Furthermore, the technical and techno-economic potential for solar photovoltaic technology installations on ProRail assets was analysed. This analysis was performed through ArcGIS software. The technical analysis showed limited potential for the roofs of buildings and platforms, as it could only provide 26% of the energy consumption of ProRail in the most favourable energy efficiency demand scenario. On the other hand, the open fields owned by ProRail have a technical potential to cover 100% of the energy demand and facilitate additional energy for other consumption sources such as trains. However, it was also found that the uncertainty of this finding indicates that detailed further research is necessary to retrieve results with higher accuracy. The techno-economic potential showed that 37% of the PV installations had a positive NPV value. Despite this relatively low percentage, the overall positive Net Present Value (NPV) for all the investigated PV installation locations of the rooftops was positive. This indicates that 37% of the surfaces with positive NPVs outweigh the negative values and relatively high financial attractivity is reached. The range of Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) values found for all the PV locations is quite comparable with the general outlook of the LCOE of solar PV in 2030. In addition, the LCOE range was cheaper than all fossil-fuel technologies indicating financial attractiveness and competitiveness. A SWOT analysis was performed and found that the implementation of PV is troubled by the electricity network administrator role of ProRail, as they are unable to generate electricity for other organisations that use the overhead electricity line of the railway network. The availability of subsidies and research projects could be used effectively to investigate new opportunities for PV implementation. Furthermore, an increased number of trains will contain an electricity meter on board. As a result, railway transport operators like NS measure their electricity use and could enter their own individual contracts. ProRail, responsible for the railway infrastructure and overhead electricity lines, is left with the energy losses in the cables that is not included in the energy contracts and administrated as ProRail energy use. Consequently, the energy demand almost doubles in 2030. This indicates that a fast implementation process of PV is required and energy efficiency improvements are crucial
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