War in Ukraine Pushes France to Shift Trains to Solar Energy
The French state railway company, SNCF, aims to cover approximately 15-20% of its energy needs through self-generated solar energy by 2030. To achieve this, unused railway facilities, platform roofs, and parking spaces will be equipped with solar systems, the company announced in Paris on Thursday.
During a press conference, SNCF President Jean-Pierre Farandou mentioned that the war in Ukraine was the driving force behind this decision. He stated, "Like everyone else, we had access to a large amount of cheap energy, but the war in Ukraine changed that, causing a complete paradigm shift. Energy consumption costs have more than doubled in 2022 and 2023 alone. This amounts to over €700 million for just these two years on the energy used for train traction."
Currently, over 80% of SNCF trains operate on electricity. The railway company is the largest industrial consumer of electricity in France, accounting for 10% of the share. Revenues from self-generated electricity are intended to support and expand the railway network.
In the initial phase, 1,000 hectares of land and buildings have been selected to generate as much electricity as a nuclear power plant can produce. In the medium-term perspective, up to 10,000 hectares of railway sections, especially along the railway tracks, are planned to be used for solar energy production. Deutsche Bahn aims to reduce CO₂ emissions and achieve energy self-sufficiency through this initiative. Energy surpluses will be reinvested.
The goal of this endeavor is to double the share of rail transportation in France by 2040. To accomplish this, SNCF is establishing a new subsidiary for its own electricity production.
Investments are also being made in the railway sector in Austria. Starting in spring 2026, ÖBB will operate double-decker Railjet trains for the first time. Additionally, the Austrian Federal Railways announced on Thursday that they have ordered 21 more Cityjet double-decker trains for local transport in the eastern region. The total order volume for 35 train sets amounts to approximately €600 million.