Sydney rail network transitions to net zero emissions

The NSW government signed a four-year agreement with Snowy Hydro-owned Red Energy for the supply of electricity to power the network. Credit: Luke White on Unsplash.

Sydney’s heavy rail network has become the first in Australia to transition to net zero emissions, after the New South Wales Government moved to power the massive transport system with renewable energy.

The government has committed to a four-year agreement with Snowy Hydro-owned Red Energy for the electricity used by the network, which produced close to 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide last financial year.

The agreement will see Red Energy buying renewable energy certificates on behalf of Sydney Trains.

The move to 100 per cent net zero emissions comes four years ahead of an earlier target set by NSW Government to transition the network to green energy by 2025.

“Our rail operators have smashed the net zero target of 2025 by becoming the first heavy rail network in Australia to transition to completely green energy,” NSW Minister for Transport and Roads Rob Stokes said.

Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink are currently said to account for nearly 1.3 per cent of the state’s electricity consumption.

Sydney Trains has also committed to reduce energy consumption by at least 10 per cent by 2025, through solar energy generation at 27 locations across the network, lighting upgrades and improvements in train operations.

ARA welcomes the move

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has welcomed the news, with ARA Chief Executive Officer Caroline Wilkie saying the move highlighted the rail industry’s commitment to supporting the decarbonisation of the transport sector.

“This is an important step as part of NSW’s path to net zero and confirms the rail industry will be a key part of this transition,” Ms Wilkie said.

“We are pleased to see the new energy deal is complemented by a commitment to reduce energy consumption and further test solutions to support the network’s net zero future over the long term.”

Ms Wilkie said the rail industry had an important role to play in supporting net zero targets set by jurisdictions across Australia.

“Greater use of rail as part of a sustainable, integrated transport network will be crucial to supporting the achievement of our net zero future,” Ms Wilkie said.

She said the move to renewable energy reflected industry efforts to further embed sustainability across their operations.

“We welcome the decision to fast track Sydney Trains’ move to green energy,” Ms Wilkie said.

“This is an important step forward and shows real leadership within the rail industry.”

Ms Wilkie said the ARA was continuing to work with its members to implement its sustainability strategy and share best practice insights across the industry.

The ARA has partnered with Roads Australia and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council to identify opportunities to accelerate decarbonisation across the transport asset lifecycle.

The ARA is also developing an issues paper on rail’s contribution to Australia’s path to net zero, which is expected to be released in the coming months.

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