Hotels Lead The Way In Green Revolution - By Jennifer James

Rising energy costs across the globe make it crucial for the hotel industry to address the issue of energy consumption and proactively manage energy budgets.

HTrends Raw materials are becoming harder to source and extract and many traditional sources of energy are found in locations that are politically uncertain, all these factors have contributed to rising costs along with a surge in demand from China and the developing world. Technological advances in recent years means that hotel managers have more choices in their quest to reduce energy costs, than simply turning off lights and heating down.

Dual approach required

Ideally a hotel will be able to utilise the latest technology to reduce consumption of energy and also reduce the cost of energy. Location is a key consideration when plans to reduce energy are established as some options may not be practical in a city location but could work well in a rural area where land is not at such a premium.

Reduction in consumption

Many of the world's leading hotel chains have well developed environmental policies and place cards in hotel rooms, and public areas such as lavatories, which educate guests on the benefits of saving energy. This approach only goes so far as it relies on the participation of hotel guests who ultimately have a choice over whether they wish to follow the advice given, it does not directly affect the cost of their stay so many guests adopt a short term approach and do not act with consideration for the environment.

Hotels that have been successful in reducing consumption have done so by being innovative and taking the decision out of the hands of guests. Simple techniques such as upgrading systems and appliances are ways of making energy savings. It is possible to upgrade and install energy efficient lighting and extend this efficiency policy to appliances such refrigerators, televisions and showers. More advances techniques involve using technology that forces energy efficiency onto the customer such as making the power going to all room appliances dependant upon a key card being inserted into a wall mounted device. If the guest leaves the room they will have to take the key card and the removal of this from the device will cause specified powered appliances to shut down along with the lighting. 

Reduction in cost

There are many products on the market that use alternative energy to provide clients with a reduction in energy costs. Hotels often have large roof spaces and land surface area providing them with more flexibility for power generation than a residential property. A hotel with sufficient space could invest in a ground source heat pump which taps into the energy from the earth's core and provides a natural and long lasting source of heat. A hotel with over fifty bedrooms would probably take only two to three years to recoup the initial investment. For those with a more limited budget and less available space an air source heat pump could still offer significant reductions in energy bills. Solar technology has advanced rapidly in recent years and is now much more efficient than in its early days and it offers hotels the possibility to generate electricity to power its rooms and actually sell surplus electricity in the open market if it is has a large generating capacity. 

Another radical development which aids self sufficiency is the use of fuel cells which enable the production of heat sources and electricity without combustion. The Hilton Hotel in New York has had a fuel cell successfully installed on its fifth floor and this has been found to be three times more efficient than the electricity grid supply and has been a low cost source of fuel providing the equivalent of six per cent of the overall supply to the hotel which has two thousand rooms. Cost savings can also be made by switching energy suppliers as incumbent suppliers do not always offer existing clients their best packages. A simple exercise to benchmark suppliers can yield significant savings, suppliers change prices constantly so it is important to periodically review the prices of comptitors to ensure the hotel is being provided with the best possible deal.

If any green solutions are used to reduce energy costs then this can result in publicity opportunities for the hotel. Hotel guests are increasingly environmentally conscious and there are a number of bodies that offer green classifications or awards such as the Green Hotels Association. Hotels have more to lose than domestic households for failings in their environmental policies. The scale of some developments means that even a single digit percentage reduction in energy costs can have huge cost savings. Global energy costs are rising rapidly and are driving inflation upwards. Whilst the hotel industry cannot influence costs of energy extraction it can play a part in changing the way energy is produced to help build a more sustainable world and balance the books.

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