ÖBB implements energy saving measures and invests in solar power for propulsion

3 min read

Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) has announced several new energy saving measures, including more economical trains, and completed large investments in solar power, as it seeks to reduce energy costs and cut emissions.

Earlier this week, for example, ÖBB revealed that it is equipping its Cityjet trains, which are from the Siemens Desiro ML series, with new software, which will enable them to go into “sleep mode” when they are parked, therefore reducing energy use.

According to ÖBB, the Cityjet trains are parked for an average of eight hours per day, but they still need energy to stay at operating level. The “Sleep Mode Plus” software makes these sleep phases of the train much more efficient.

With a total of 200 Desiro ML city jets in the ÖBB fleet, the savings add up to 21,000 kW per day. That’s 7,600,000 kWh a year less. Thus, the sleep mode saves about as much energy as 1,900 households need per year. ÖBB aims to equip all Cityjets with the new software by the middle of next year.

Energy saving measures

Alongside the Cityjets project, ÖBB has announced a package of around 30 measures being implemented to save energy and cut costs. First, the room temperature of ÖBB's own offices, workshops and stations will be successively reduced to 19 degrees.

In addition, ÖBB’s ongoing operational energy efficiency program is being driven forward, including the implementation of measures such as energy-saving rail driving, fuel-saving driving for the Postbus, the increasing use of recuperative traction units (vehicles that generate energy when braking), and more efficient warming operation for double-deck coaches.

Through these and more measures, ÖBB’s total energy consumption is continuously minimized. By 2024, the major goal is to save a total of 180 GWh of energy in the ÖBB group compared to the base year 2014. This is achieved, among other things, with 16 partly independent, but also existing initiatives and integrated lighthouse projects – such as the procurement of new traction units. In 2021, around 25 GWh was already saved compared to 2020.

“Together, we must manage to use the valuable commodity of energy sensibly and save energy where possible,” said ÖBB CEO Andreas Matthä, while also encouraging people to use public transport: “Be smart and take the train.” He added, “As team ÖBB, we will literally come together, dress warmly and set a good example as one of the country's large companies.”

Solar power

ÖBB also announced this week that it has completed a large investment in a new 7,000m² photovoltaic system on a workshop roof in Matzleinsdorf, Vienna. The system generates around 1,400 MWh of electricity annually. This corresponds to the electricity requirements of 350 households.

Following the commissioning of the 9,800m² Inzersdorf photovoltaic system last week, which produces 2,200 MWh of electricity annually, Matzleinsdorf is ÖBB’s second large-scale plant to go into operation within a few weeks. With the two new plants in Vienna alone, ÖBB was able to significantly increase annual electricity production in the solar energy sector.

Tanja Kienegger, head of the energy business unit at ÖBB said, “Our largest 50 Hz photovoltaic system to date produces 1,400 MWh of green electricity annually and thus makes a significant contribution to the supply of our operating systems. For ÖBB, an essential goal is to increase the share of its own generation with renewable energies for the traction power supply as well as the supply of stations and operating facilities.”

ÖBB currently operates a total of 45 photovoltaic systems on operating systems and open spaces throughout Austria. This means that a total of around 10,000 MWh of green electricity will be produced with photovoltaic systems. Further plants are planned in Vienna and throughout Austria.

The in-house production of sustainable electricity is at the heart of ÖBB’s ambitious climate protection strategy. ÖBB has been a pioneer in electromobility for more than 100 years, and since 2018 ÖBB has relied on traction power from 100% renewable energy. Since 2019, the stations and operating facilities have also been supplied with electricity from 100% renewable energy.

ÖBB already produces around a third of its traction power from hydropower itself. By 2030, this share is to rise to 40% through the renewal of existing power plants and the expansion of other renewable energy sources such as sun and wind. At the same time, the route network throughout Austria will also be further electrified. Already today, more than 95% of rail transport services are provided electrically.