Delivering climate-proof and healthy built environment using renewable energy in public transport


  • Chandrima Mukhopadhyay NA




The study investigates the feasibility of using renewable energy as a source for electric public transport network on the ground that it will improve both demand for mobility and boost energy transition. Use of renewable energy in public transport has substantial benefits from both demand and supply sides. Since 60% of operating cost of public transport is consisted of the fuel cost, electrification of public transport and further the use of renewable energy in generating the electricity will substantially reduce the operation cost over time. Electricity as fuel is 29% cheaper than diesel (Trade Brains, 2023), and the use of renewable energy is 12% to 29% cheaper than fossil fuel (Shukla, 2022), while solar power is the cheapest (Howell, 2022). This will improve mobility for all with affordable services, and especially for the vulnerable groups in the global South who cannot currently afford public transport. On the supply side, since more than 50% of additional energy demand would come from the modal shift to public transport, and its electrification, use of renewable energy in electric public transport network will boost the energy transition (ICCT, 2022).

Electric public transport using renewable energy delivers both climate change mitigation and UN's Sustainable Development Goals. The use of renewable energy in public transport is often perceived as relevant to environmental science, the narrative that it will substantially improve peoples’ mobility has not been strongly proposed yet. On the other hand, there is only one EU document that focuses on how the coupling of public transport and renewable energy will boost energy transition.

Along with national government policies on electrification of public transport, both at the national and subnational levels in India there are policies on renewable energy, and many subnational policies encourage use the renewable energy for electric public transport, even in the form of circular economy. For instance, there are policies and missions encouraging the use of municipal solid waste and wastewater to generate renewable energy, at multiple spatial scales, starting from Urban local bodies (ULBs), and for various sizes of towns. The study will present few such cases from the Indian context to discuss how such interventions boost both the demand and supply side of urban mobility in Indian cities. 

Based on a very recent review of the relevant literature, the future research agenda includes scenario analysis consisting of private-public transport share, modal share of various public transport modes, along with energy mix; projection of capital and operating costs, reflecting on fare; using a life cycle analysis, relating to 1.50C scenario. The emission scenarios could use back-casting method. There is a lot of scope in developing context specific scenario modelling. More studies on production and storage of renewable energy in public transport should be carried out. The production related studies would demonstrate how operating cost could be minimized considering whole life cycle analysis. And storage related studies could help understanding the impact of using renewable energy on other sectors. The storage part will also demonstrate how renewable energy can be supplied to buildings, the other significant sector within built environment, in the case frequent power cut, which is going take place due to climate change and extreme weather events (specifically extreme heat events here). The review already shows few co-benefits of investing in use of renewable energy in public transport, such as accessibility and affordability, health, safety, eradication of poverty. Improved share of public transport and fare reflects on accessibility and affordability from the demand side.