As populations and economies grow, so too does the demand for energy. Unfortunately, that energy is still supplied primarily through non-renewable sources like fossil fuel. Besides being a source that will eventually run out, fossil fuel also produces a substantial amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which trap heat in the atmosphere and accelerate the warming of the planet. We’re already seeing the devastating impact that this process is having on weather patterns, biodiversity and human life.
The hotel sector uses a significant amount of energy, with room temperature regulation and lighting being the two biggest consumers. And as a result it contributes significantly to GHG emissions – between 160 and 200 kg of CO2 per square metre of room floor area. There are a lot of opportunities for energy saving, including quick wins through cutting unnecessary loss and waste. But a truly sustainable industry also requires investing in longer-term, global solutions.
Reducing energy consumption and switching to renewable sources are fundamentally important to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which is the goal we need to reach in order avoid catastrophic temperature rises. An in-depth study on the global accommodation sector identified four key steps that we as an industry can take to achieve this.
In this section we’ll look at the benefits of reducing your energy consumption, both for your business and for the environment. We’ll also cover some of the different measures you can take to reduce your consumption and improve the sustainability of your business.
Four benefits of reducing your energy consumption
1. You’ll cut costs
The potential savings made by reducing your energy consumption are significant. Analyses of European hotels have found potential energy savings of up to 20% on heating, 30% on cooling, 70% on hot water and 60% on lighting. These translate to notable savings on operational costs. As an example from the field, after installing a smart energy management system, annual room electricity costs dropped by 39% at the Galt House Hotel – which cut more than $100,000 from their operational costs.
2. You’ll shrink your carbon footprint
Using less energy means producing less waste, and that means your environmental footprint shrinks. If your energy source is fossil fuel, then reducing consumption also means fewer GHG emissions. Host Hotels & Resorts, for example, reduced their GHG emissions by 35% per square foot through a range of energy saving initiatives including building automation systems, LED lighting retrofits, HVAC enhancements and renewable energy investments.
3. Smart energy systems improve guest and employee comfort
There are plenty of high-tech solutions to improve energy efficiency, most of which are centred around automation. In addition to reducing energy consumption, these technologies can also improve the comfort of your guests and make your employees’ work simpler. Automatic power controls switch off electrical devices whenever a room is empty, which saves your employees from having to do it manually. Building automation systems, on the other hand, control heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) by making automatic adjustments in response to humidity or air pressure. These systems improve guest comfort by maintaining a comfortable indoor climate.
4. Renewable energy makes you future-proof
Fossil fuel isn’t just an energy source that’s contributing to the warming of the planet – it’s also a finite resource that will one day run out. As private and public sectors around the world recognise this fact, more and more investment is being made in renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Likewise, you can future-proof your property by reducing your reliance on fossil fuel and switching to renewable energy sources.
How to reduce your energy consumption
Analyse your energy consumption
The first step to managing your energy consumption is measuring it. Your main source of data will be your energy bills. Sub-metres can give you a more detailed picture of energy use per area/department. Measuring your baseline energy consumption and tracking it over time will give you insight into your consumption. You’ll also be able to identify energy-saving opportunities and later assess the effectiveness of any measures you take.
Ask your energy provider if they provide a dashboard to measure and monitor your energy consumption. If they don’t, use the data you gather to benchmark your property’s energy performance against industry standards to see how energy efficient it is. You can use the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative’s (HCMI) free methodology and tool to calculate the carbon footprint of stayed nights and meetings at your property. Make sure you adjust your measurements for factors like weather, so that you make an accurate comparison between properties that have differing facilities and are exposed to different weather patterns.
Switch to energy-efficient lighting
Incandescent and halogen lights, which are the most commonly used in hotels, are highly energy inefficient – only 20% of the energy is actually converted to light, the remaining 80% is lost as heat.
By switching to more efficient lighting – such as compact fluorescent lights (CFL), fluorescent tube lamps or light emitting diodes (LED) – you can cut energy use by up to 70%. In addition to lower energy consumption, CFLs produce less heat – which can ease demand on air conditioning and further reduce your energy use – while LEDs last up to three times longer than fluorescent bulbs and are easy to recycle*.
* Some light bulbs contain hazardous material like mercury, so it’s important to recycle them rather than throw them in the general trash, where they can end up in landfills.
Implement occupancy-linked controls
Most people behave differently in hotels than in their own homes. Forgetting to turn the lights off is one example. With occupancy-linked lighting control, lights are only switched on in areas that are occupied or in use. There are several occupancy-linked controls that can be used for different scenarios:
- Key cards – A key card system works by switching off the electricity supply of a room when it’s not occupied. Guests simply insert the key card in a wall-mounted device when they enter, and the electricity switches on. When they remove their card and leave the room, the electricity is automatically switched off.
Switching to key card systems and power controls can cut in-room electricity use by up to 30%. However, these systems do have the potential to create significant waste. A typical 200-room hotel has to replace around 12,000 plastic cards per year. To avoid added plastic waste, consider using green key cards. There are multiple options available, including cards made from recycled plastic, biodegradable plastic and even paper.
- Lighting timers – You can set up timers to switch lights on or off at preset times every day. These can be used in areas that are occupied during the same hours every day, such as restaurants or conference/meeting rooms.
- Motion sensors – Motion sensors switch lights on when movement is detected, and switch them off after a preset period of inactivity. These are useful in areas where activity is infrequent – such as restrooms in public areas – and can save up to 60% of the energy use of a room.
- Photocell control – A photocell switch senses when there is enough natural light and responds by dimming or switching off the lights. There are different types available, depending on the size of the area you want to light.
Adopt a smart temperature management system
Adjusting thermostat settings by just a few degrees can create huge energy savings. Lowering the thermostat by 1ºC in the winter can cut heating energy consumption by 10% – similar savings can be achieved with air conditioning in the summer. You can automate this process by integrating motion- and heat-sensing technology into an energy management thermostat, which automatically lowers a room’s temperature when it’s empty.
Green your energy
Limiting the global temperature surge is a critical priority, and greening energy supplies is an important component in this process. Making the switch to renewable energy sources will dramatically reduce your operational emissions and – most importantly – when done properly it increases the demand for renewable energy in your area. This in turn stimulates the addition of new renewables to the local power grid, which is crucial to eventually matching the global demand for energy with sufficient renewable supply and phasing out fossil fuel.
Unfortunately, there are many energy providers that claim their energy is clean and renewable when it isn’t. So there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing renewable energy sources to make sure they’re truly sustainable and contribute to a fossil fuel-free world:
- Wherever possible, opt for renewable energy sources that are installed onsite. These have the highest positive impact because they ensure that new clean energy is being added to the grid. The most common examples are solar panels.
- If installing onsite isn’t possible, the next best alternative is renewable energy that’s created locally and sold directly to the consumer. The best approach is to find locally-created, new renewable programmes. When investing in renewable energy, be aware that renewable energy certificates (RECs) or guarantees of origin (GOs) from abroad may not contribute to additional renewable energy supply.
- In countries or markets where it’s not possible to buy 100% renewable energy, you can still contribute to greening your local energy sources by buying from companies that are working hard to make renewable energy available. Independent sustainability rankings of renewable energy providers can help you understand the impact that buying a certain company’s energy will have, as well as the overall sustainability of the product.
Show travellers what you’re doing
Once you start to implement measures to green your energy and reduce your consumption – or if you’ve already got some in place – you can communicate this to travellers through our platform.
Have you implemented any of these practices to save energy or reduce greenhouse gases?
Discover our other sustainability guides:
Reducing plastic consumption
It’s now easier now than ever to run your property without plastic – and it’s never more important. Plastic takes years to break down, harms wildlife and damages the environment. This guide will show you how to protect both by reducing your plastic consumption.
Reducing food waste
About a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Given that food can represent a significant cost, reducing waste has huge savings potential – and a positive impact on your environmental footprint.
Reducing water consumption
Fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce. That’s why we need to start cutting water consumption today – and it’s going to take more than just asking guests to reuse towels. But the environmental and financial upsides are worth the investment.