Energy management tops new sustainability initiatives

This article is part one in a three-part series on energy management. Look to Thursday's tech news for part two.

In the recent Hotel Management Voice of the GM survey, 20 percent more general managers said that they had added new sustainability initiatives at their hotels in 2013 than in 2012, most of which were in the recycling and energy efficiency categories. What’s behind the uptick in interest?

“One of the big reasons is that the flags are mandating these typetypes of systems,” said Chris Pieper, director of sales and marketing at energy management and guestroom control systems provider Evolve Guest Controls. “The big flags are making it a required installation as opposed to just a luxury item, so hotels are approaching it a little bit differently.”

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As an example, Pieper cited Starwood’s 2020 initiative, which commits the company to reducing energy consumption by 30 percent and water consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020. While many of these programs are a few years old, as the economy improves, hotels have more cash on hand to invest in these systems and take advantage of the energy cost savings they provide.

Those cost savings are another major factor attracting interest from hotels, said Douglas Mackemer, director of parts, supplies and specialized equipment at HVAC/R distribution company Carrier Enterprise. “Being able to control energy when a room is unoccupied or once the guest is checked out is a huge cost savings.”

The savings can be significant. “EnergyStar reports that reducing energy consumption by 30 percent could save the industry $300 million as a whole annually,” said Bill Oliver, president, North America for electronic lock, safe and EMS manufacturer VingCard Elsafe. “Thanks to such impressive figures, the demand for sustainability continues to rise and will no doubt continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

Those cost savings can manifest themselves in other ways as well. If an EMS is able to turn equipment off remotely, it puts less pressure on hotel staff to walk the property and make sure unused equipment is shut down, said Mackemer. Additionally, in many areas of the United States, hotels can be hit with extra charges for pulling more electricity during peak demand times or turning on too many lights at once. An EMS can work to smooth out demand.

Another driving factor is guest awareness, said Alastair Cush, director of product marketing, at electronic lock manufacturer Kaba Lodging. “Hotel guests expect it now,” Cush said. “We’ve been careful about our towels for a long time, and savvy travelers are looking at a hotel to have some kind of program for sustainability.”