India’s trains could soon be powered by solar energy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the country’s investment target for the source of renewable energy will be increased to $100 billion, five times greater than current levels, scaling solar power to more than 10% of India’s total energy sector by 2022.

Indian Railways, a state-owned enterprise, has already started testing how solar energy could help power its network. Here are 5 things you need to know about the green future of Indian trains:

  1. Indian Railways is one of the largest transportation networks in the world, and was the eighth largest employer in the world in 2012. It carries over 23 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of freight every day. The network’s route spans 65,000 kilometres – more than the circumference of the earth.
  1. The fuel consumption of the Railways cost $4.7 billion in the last financial year. The Railway Minister has called for an energy and water audit to minimize the environmental impact and to reduce costs.
  1. The railway company wants to source at least 10% of its total energy consumption from renewable energy by 2020. It is currently collecting data from its first test: a solar panel-enabled coach.
  1. The hope is to come up with a solar policy for procuring 1000 megawatt solar power in the next five years. Currently, the solar panels on the coach in the trial generate 17 units of power per day, enabling the lighting system.
  1. There are also plans to build solar power plants in 200 train stations. Solar energy could help power railways at remote locations and reduce reliance on diesel as less diesel generators would be needed.

Read the World Economic Forum’s report on the future of urban infrastructure development in India for the full picture on how India can revolutionize its urban landscape.

Author: Jenny Soffel, Website Editor, World Economic Forum

Image: Passengers travel on an overcrowded train at Loni town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee