French railway operator launches renewables unit, plans 1 GW of solar


From pv magazine France

French railway operator SNCF said this week that it has set up SNCF Renouvelables, a new clean energy unit.

SNFC, with its fleet of 15,000 daily trains and its 3,000 stations and industrial buildings, is France's top electricity consumer, using 9 TWh per year, including 8 TWh for train electrification.

SNCF Renouvelables plans to allocate 1,000 hectares of its land to develop 1 GW of PV plants, aiming to meet 20% of its electricity needs by 2030. This initial phase constitutes a small portion of SNCF's total land ownership of approximately 100,000 hectares, making it the country's second-largest landowner after the state.

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Energy consumption costs have more than doubled in 2022 and 2023,” said SNCF president Jean-Pierre Farrandou. “This represents more than €700 million ($764.6 million) just for the energy used for train traction in these two years.”

SNCF already produces its own electricity, with solar panels on the roofs of its stations or in shades, via its subsidiary SNCF Gares et Connexions.

Its SNCF Energie unit has also been piloting a “corporate PPA” program since 2018. It has already signed several PPAs, including one with French energy giant EDF, one with Switzerland's Axpo, and one with French independent power producer Reden.

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