Energy and CO2 emissions

The global railway sector is working extremely hard to maintain its environmental advantage by improving its energy efficiency and reducing its CO2 emissions. For example, 28 European members of UIC have collectively committed to reduce CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre and per tonne kilometre by 50% by 2030, and are well on track to meet this target.

Improving energy efficiency is the most important aspect of the railway’s strategies to reduce CO2 emissions, and of course has significant business benefits as reducing costs.

Railway companies use a combination of technical and non-technical means to improve energy efficiency. Technical measures include using more modern rolling stock with lower energy consumption, or innovative technologies such as regenerative braking – a system that harnesses the energy produced during braking, transferring it back into the rail system, allowing other trains to use it.
Non-technical measures include energy-efficient driving techniques, which focus on developing train drivers’ expertise to save energy or diesel fuel costs. Linked to both these points is the installation of clear Energy Metering on trains, so that operators can monitor their energy consumption and assess which approaches save the most energy.

Energy and CO2 emissions expert network

The UIC Energy Expert Network provides strategy, guidance and leadership across the work of the UIC and the rail sector in general for UIC members with respect to projects and issues related to energy efficiency and renewable energy in the railway sector. It also provides a forum to share good practices. It consults or advises on energy-efficiency related UIC projects led by other platforms and working groups and provides expert positions on current issues at the request of UIC (e.g. pending legislation, media inquiries). The UIC Energy Expert Network deals with all aspects of energy efficiency and CO2 emissions. More specifically it is committed to publishing information on progress against the targets set in by international organisations and coalitions by means of the data collected via the Environment Strategy Reporting System (ESRS) and CO2 database. This network organises many different workshops every year on new IRS, energy infrastructure, efficient driving, etc.

Environment Strategy Reporting System (ESRS)

UIC and CER General Assemblies, in order to provide a unified approach to environmental and sustainability topics for the European railway sector, voted in December 2010 the document “Moving towards Sustainable Mobility: Rail Sector Strategy 2030 and beyond – Europe (UIC-CER 2010)":

The strategy outlined in the document describes how the rail sector should be performing in environmental terms in 2030 and 2050 and it is built on four key environmental topics: climate protection, energy efficiency, exhaust emissions and noise. It sets out specific objectives to be met by 2030 and, as uncertainties make prediction for the longer timeframe of 2050 more difficult, more general “visions” for 2050.

Data are regularly collected and stored on the website:

The tool gives also a yearly update data to “Ecopassenger” and “EcoTransit”, the UIC-developed ecocalculators.

UIC ESRS Methodological Rules - Methodology and Policy

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Energy Billing Project

More and more traction units in Europe are equipped with metering systems collecting data regarding energy consumption and the positions of the traction units. To avoid different metering systems being installed according to national specifications it is necessary for cross-border traffic to standardise the exchange of data. In this light the Energy Billing Project was set up in October 2005 in order to ensure an exact billing of energy consumption for interoperable cross-border rail traffic in Europe.

Together with the standardisation of the metering equipment by CENELEC the results of the Energy Billing project will enable rail operators to pay the energy bill according to the actual energy consumption only.

UIC leaflet 930

The Energy Billing Project has elaborated the UIC leaflet 930 “Exchange of data for cross-border railway energy settlement”. The leaflet was published in November 2009.

The purpose of the UIC leaflet 930 is to:

  • Describe the processes and protocols used for the exchange of energy consumption data between Infrastructure Managers which by respecting existing national systems thereby contribute to an improvement in European railway sector interoperability.
  • Define the technical requirements for the checking and verification of this data.
  • Allow Railway Undertakings to identify their genuine energy consumption and therefore pay exactly what is consumed; associate the consumption of each train to the bill and the energy price (including existing models) which will lead finally to energy savings.

This leaflet establishes the necessary framework for the exchange of data for cross-border railway energy settlement.

Supporting documents to UIC leaflet 930

The Energy Billing Project has elaborated the following supporting documents to the UIC leaflet 930, which will support the implementation of Energy Billing Systems.

Rail Transport and Environment: Facts & Figures

Rail is one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport and generates significantly lower CO2 emissions than other modes. Increasing the modal share of rail in line with 2011 Transport White Paper targets would result in an estimated reduction of 238 million tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to 19% of EU27 transport emissions in 2010. That is just one striking figure in the new booklet on rail and environment released today by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and the International Union of Railways (UIC).

2015 is a big year for climate change policy, for which transport still presents a major challenge. The booklet, jointly published by CER and UIC, aims to support decision makers with comprehensive data on the environmental impact of the different transport modes. It demonstrates that rail is an enabling factor for sustainable mobility because:

Travelling by rail is on average 3-10 times less CO2 intensive compared with road or air transport
Rail’s share of transport energy consumption is less than 2% despite a market share of over 8.5%
Land use per passenger-km for rail is about 3.5 times lower than for cars
Rail’s average external costs (i.e. the costs of the negative effects of transport, such as air pollution, that are not paid by the users themselves but borne by the society at large) are more than four times less than road’s for passenger services, and more than six times less for freight services
In order to drive continued improvement of rail’s environmental footprint, CER and UIC’s European members have agreed targets until 2030 and a vision for sustainable mobility until 2050. These targets, adopted in 2010, have now been updated with increased ambition for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and are presented in the booklet.

Rail Transport and Environment: Facts & Figures

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Zero Carbon Railways

How to report green electricity use?

Data showed that European railways used in 2009 nearly 30% of renewable electricity, with a significant increase in the last years. Decarbonization of electricity mix is one of the drivers for CO2 emission reduction: the higher the percentage of electricity from renewable sources used for traction, the lower is the CO2 emitted in the atmosphere.
In parallel to the growth in renewable energy production, the voluntary use of renewable electricity by companies has also been growing at fast pace.

Therefore defining a transparent methodology for tracking green electricity purchasing became fundamental for the UIC Environment Strategy Reporting System.

This report is the result of an intense year working spent on consulting related stakeholders (IEA, EEA, DG Energy…) and UIC Experts from the Energy Efficiency and CO2 Emissions in order to agree on a common approach when reporting on Carbon performance internally and at sector level (ESRS).

The conclusion of the report suggests highlighted the importance of using both he electricity mix and the market-based mix.

Zero Carbon Railways - Final report (August 2014)

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