Why Energy Efficiency is More Important Than Ever

By James Gieselman Principal, Emeritus Consulting, LLC | May 07, 2017


The generally accepted definition of sustainable operations is our using of resources such that we meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Certainly energy is chief among those resources that we are encouraged to use sustainably. In an article by Climate Progress, Why Energy Efficiency Is The Most Important Fuel We Didn’t Know We Had ( Sept, 2014 ), the author begins by pointing out that “energy efficiency has graduated from the ‘hidden fuel’ to the ‘first fuel.’” His meaning should be clear: while energy efficiency has played an important role in the past, its value to society has been severely under-appreciated. Its importance has been underestimated as well. An earlier McKinsey report notes that through energy efficiency improvements alone the United States could meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by the year 2020. Energy efficiency, then, should be regarded as a primary vehicle on the road toward sustainability.

Step up to the Plate

How does one begin the quest for energy efficiency? The very first step is to determine how far behind the efficiency curve your property really is. ( You may discover that you’re actually ahead of the pack. ) The best metric for determining where you stand is your hotel’s energy use intensity ( EUI ). This is simply a measure of how much total energy your property used per square foot over the course of a year. The units in the United States are kBtu per square foot per year; overseas it is typically kWh per square meter per year. The U.S. EPA estimates that the median EUI for domestic hotels is 187 kBtu/sf/yr. Obviously there is much built into this number: location, property size, hotel type, laundry on site, indoor pool, etc. All of these variables have an effect on energy consumption, so using only this metric absent any qualifiers isn’t optimum. Rather, using a tool like the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager will take into consideration those parameters and others to measure your energy consumption on an equal footing with other hotels. Today over 10, 000 hotels use Portfolio Manager’s benchmarking function.

Having determined where you rank among your peer properties you can now start the process by developing a plan. The plan can be as simple or as detailed as you need it to be, but it should set forth at least these guidelines:

  1. A goal – measured in EUI reduction or in Energy Star score improvement
  2. A timeline – how long your team has to reach the goal
  3. A champion – who is in charge of this effort and what his/her authority is
  4. An assessment method – a determination of who will assess the property for energy reduction opportunities and the methods to be used ( energy audit, retrocommissioning, ongoing commissioning software, etc. )
  5. A method of implementation – how approved energy projects will be executed.
  6. A progress report – a way of keeping track of the savings the energy projects are generating.

There are two ways to increase a property’s energy efficiency. The first is to replace old, inefficient technology with new higher efficiency gear. This could pertain to virtually any energy consuming device. These changes in infrastructure ( requiring capital spending ) can be expensive and have small returns on their investments, but some, like lighting retrofits, can produce excellent paybacks. In either case, the energy savings gained are locked in for the life of the equipment. The second method of boosting efficiency comes through changes in operations, sometimes referred to as retro-commissioning. This process works with your existing equipment, looking to improve energy consumption through more efficient operating strategies. Usually the cost to perform retro-commissioning and to execute the resulting projects is far less expensive than equipment replacement and generates excellent ROIs. But energy savings garnered here are typically not permanent and may diminish over time. These projects are often referred to as low cost / no cost projects because they often only require the changing of set points.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.