Spain opts for massive electricity savings by using railway tech

Spain just announced implementing power savings technology for their trains, potentially saving 30 percent of energy consumption. If all European countries follow Spain’s example, electric power equal to the consumption of 35 million European households can be saved. New EU regulations demand other nations to follow.

Isabel Pardo de Vera Posada of Spanish railway administrator company Adif with Norwegian counterpart Gorm Frimannslund, CEO of Bane NOR. (Photo: Adif)

 “It is a key for ADIF to be ready to face the new challenges that the liberalization of passenger services will bring”, says President Isabel Pardo de Vera Posada of Spanish railway administrator company Adif.

“The deadline set by the EU for the supply and invoicing of energy based on the amount of electricity effectively consumed by each train, is fast approaching. Therefore, it is important for us to ensure that we will be ready to enforce a single system already implemented in seven other European countries.

In addition, it is important for us to learn from the successful experiences in Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands and Finland, countries which have already overcome the challenge.

We hope that the agreement we have just signed with ERESS on the 1st of January will help us succeed in our goal of implementing this system under a framework of certainty, confidence and transparency.”

Spain is well known for its excellent high-speed train system. Spanish infrastructure owner Adif just announced that they will start using electric power savings technology for their trains. The technology called Erex is provided by non-profit, split cost partnership called Eress. Spain is the largest country to join the partnership, which consists of European railway administrators. 6000 trains operated by 50 train companies in seven countries are currently running the technology, saving up to 30 % of energy consumption.

Significant climate benefits

As from 2020, the European Union requires all member states to ensure that train operating companies get access to such technology. This technology allows train operators to save a great deal of money by lowering their electrical bills. As a result, Europe will save significant amounts of electrical power, which should be beneficial in the struggle against climate change.

“It’s a win-win situation: The train companies save money and climate-wise the environment benefits from the reduction in energy consumption, says Dyre Martin Gulbrandsen, Director of Eress partnership. “Train companies in deregulated markets compete. Saving costs and making a green profile even greener gives them an edge. The technology we provide makes this possible.”

How it works

Dyre Martin Gulbrandsen explains how the system works: “The technology allows trains to save large amounts of electricity. In fact, modern trains can produce electricity when decelerating. Train companies pay their electrical bills, but are not refunded for producing electricity, and not rewarded for running trains in a power effective manner. The bills they pay are issued based on estimates and not on actual consumption. So, there is no incentive for train companies in saving nor producing energy. The Erex technology measures the exact power consumption – and production – of each train wherever it may run in Europe. This ensures accurate electrical bills while providing the data they need to run in an energy saving way. Obviously, train companies want to save money and take active steps driving their trains energy friendly”.

Erex imports data from meters installed on electric trains and secures and validates the data, allocates it, settles it and distributes it to infrastructure managers and train operators, according to national and international requirements. Online data and standardized reports allow train companies and infrastructure managers a correct overview and full control of the energy used by their trains.

By using Erex, train companies can monitor energy consumption and production of each individual train and driver. There may be considerable differences in driving style among operators and with an optimal driving style, up to 30% of the consumption can be saved.

Which country is next?

Other major European countries are now looking into ways of accommodating such technology.

“I know that some railway infrastructure owners are working on similar national systems to meet the EU demands. We respect that there are political issues involved in sharing of train data across national borders”, Mr. Dyre Martin Gulbrandsen says. “However, it is key to learn to collaborate across borders. In addition, development costs can be very high. So, we do not recommend going that way. We are happy to collaborate and share our technology and know-how, expanding our non-profit partnership to more European countries. Erex is in fact the only such technology in operation.”

Electric power consumption

Trains consume the least energy per passenger when compared to all other means of transport. Still, trains can be made even more energy efficient. European trains consume approx. 60 billion kilowatt-hours of electric power per year. Erex power saving technology makes it possible to save up to 30 per cent of the total energy consumed. A rough estimate on the savings potential equals the power consumption of 35 million European households.

More on Erex and the Eress partnership

The Erex technology was developed by the energy department of the Norwegian Railway Administration (Bane NOR) and first implemented in the Scandinavian countries. Including Spain, 8 European countries are now sharing and making use of the technology. Eress is not commercial, but a split-cost and non-profit partnership, open for membership to any national railway administrator in Europe.

More on Adif

Adif, the Administrator of Railway Infrastructure in Spain, is a state-owned company that answers to the Ministerio de Fomento. Adif plays a leading role in promoting the railway sector, working towards converting it into the ideal mode of transport and facilitating access to the infrastructure under fair conditions. 63.7% of the kilometers of railway lines managed by Adif and Adif AV are electrified. In addition, 83% of train-km is done by electric trains.