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Saving energy on the railway

As a high energy user, Deutsche Bahn has a natural interest in saving energy. DB Cargo has pooled its many energy-related activities in a task force. railways discussed this with Steffen Bobsien, Head of European Assets & Technology at DB Cargo.

As an eco-pioneer, DB has a keen focus on topics such as the fight against climate change and noise, and the struggle to protect species and nature. The new "Directive on the promotion of energy efficiency in electric railways" is a new five-year programme based on the Special Energy and Climate Fund (ECF) to support rail companies over a five-year period. To receive funding, the companies have to demonstrate efficiency gains and appropriate measures.

Mr Bobsien, how does DB Cargo put energy saving into practice?

Steffen Bobsien: Since 2010, we have already reduced our specific energy consumption per tonne-kilometre by more than 9%. Firstly, this helps us directly in the form of lower energy costs, because around 60% of the total life-cycle expenditure on a locomotive goes on energy. Secondly, we have firmly established the target of becoming "eco-pioneers" as part of the DB Group strategy: by 2030 we aim to halve our specific CO2 emissions – that is, the emissions per passenger- and tonne-kilometre – compared with 2006. Greater energy efficiency will make a very considerable contribution to this. And of course, we also intend to continue saving energy and will be delighted if this qualifies us for support from the ECF.

So DB Cargo is starting from a high level...

It is true that potential savings have already been considerably reduced by our previous successes, which sets the bar very high for us, so to speak. One example: A few years ago, we could improve energy efficiency by 10% by introducing a new Class 185 locomotive to replace an older model. A brand-new locomotive class today, however, offers a much smaller improvement in percentage terms over a Class 185. This shows that the target set by the ECF – at least a 1.75% year-on-year increase in energy efficiency for 2018 and 2019 and a 2.0% increase from 2020 – cannot be taken for granted.

So what is DB Cargo doing to meet the target required for funding?

In 2017, we pooled our energy-saving measures in one central office and set up an ECF Task Force. Its first task was to be clear about our specific energy consumption per tonne-kilometre – a specific parameter on which DB Cargo had not focused until then. At the same time, we identified measures that have a positive impact on energy efficiency. We intend to reduce energy consumption through improved processes. A good example is switching off stabled locomotives: this reduces the energy consumption of locomotives that are not in service. However, it requires forward planning so as to avoid long preparation times before the locomotive goes back into operation.

What role is played by the train drivers?

Their driving style has a major impact on energy consumption. We support energy-saving driving through the LEADER driver assistance system, which constantly displays the energy-efficient speed. With the introduction of a new key performance indicator – traction energy efficiency – we are also creating transparency around energy consumption. This helps our colleagues.

In your view, what have been the most significant factors for success?

Energy saving is a team effort, and with the ECF Task Force and consultancy support from Berg Lund & Company, we are very well positioned. With energy saving, it's also necessary to question our familiar behaviour and demonstrate new possibilities. It's crucial to be in step with our local colleagues on this issue and take them with us. Showing appreciation is also an enormous lever. For example, it was a great help to us that the Board of Management and the Central Works Council actively supported DB Cargo's Energy Saving Olympics in person by taking part in local events. I hope this will have a lasting legacy.