The Blackout: Can it Happen Again?

By Steve Kiesner Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute | October 28, 2008

The result is greater congestion on the lines. This can lead to higher power prices for hotels and all customers. It also stresses the electric system, which creates the potential for reliability problems.

Federal legislation is needed to address these issues. The nation's electric companies encourage the hotel industry to support it.

The Grid

The nation's transmission "grid" is really three grids: the Eastern Interconnection, which connects the Eastern seaboard and the Plains states and Canadian provinces; the Western Systems Coordinating Council Interconnection, which includes the Pacific coast and the Mountain states and provinces; and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates within Texas.

Each grid transmits electricity from generating plants to population centers within its region. From there, low voltage power lines distribute the electricity to homes and businesses. About 12 percent of all power lines in the country are high voltage transmission lines.

The interconnected nature of each transmission network improves system reliability. It benefits electric utilities by giving them alternative paths to move electricity to wherever it is needed. As was the case in the August 2003 blackout, however, this interconnected approach also brings with it the risk that a local problem could cascade into a regional one.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.