Coupling across sectors is a key feature of the energy transition, with widespread electrification of end uses with renewable energies underpinning decarbonisation. After the electricity sector and industry, the next largest sector for emissions reductions is transport. While much of the focus has been on passenger vehicles, other forms including air and marine transport and now the railways are attracting growing attention, writes Jonathan Spencer Jones.
Just as the golden age of steam with its engineering wonder locomotives gave way to diesel and electric – and the cloud of the steam from one of those engines has to be smelled for the nostalgia to be appreciated – so too these are now having to move with the times to lower carbon alternatives as countries drive towards a net zero future.
As the rail sector is already partially electrified in many countries, it has received less attention than other transport sectors. Indeed, the sector is already the most energy-efficient and least carbon-intensive of mobility. But that is changing.