Using or losing? How to monitor and control energy consumption in your hotels and leisure centres

Posted by Ian Hopkins on 09-Aug-2016 09:41:50

A business that uses energy more efficiently is more competitive, more attractive to customers, and more likely to be ready to comply with future environmental legislation. How much energy do you use and where can you cut back?

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Did you know that a leisure centre with a pool will typically use 1,321 kWh/m2/yr of energy and 258 kWh/m2/yr of electricity? But one with efficient energy management will use 573 kWh/m2/yr of energy and 164 kWh/m2/yr of electricity…

At current prices, that works out at about £51/m2/yr versus £27.

In other words, there’s a 47% difference in the price the best in class centre pays for its energy versus an average one.

A report last year suggested the hotel sector as a whole could save £38m per year through a variety of energy saving initiatives and investments – or £64 per room.

That’s incentive enough, but now consider this: the savings come straight off the bottom line, which takes the pressure off chasing extra sales in a highly competitive market.

In fact, the Carbon Trust estimates that saving 20% on energy represents the same bottom line benefit as a 5% uplift in sales. That 20% will likely be a lot easier to achieve than the 5%.

“Reducing energy use doesn’t always mean spending a lot. Business can cut costs through low to medium cost measures such as replacing lights or heating systems or encouraging employees to change behaviour,” says Michelle Hubert at the CBI

But there are other benefits too. Cutting back on energy will see your carbon footprint fall. This will allow you to weather any regulatory storms on the way as governments assess how to meet the Paris Agreement targets to tackle climate change.

It will also enhance your brand’s reputation. Polls consistently show that people want to stay in hotels that are acting responsibly – and energy use is a great place to start.

Heat demands

The energy needs will vary from site-to-site. If you’re in a hotel, the main consumption areas will be heating and hot water (60%) and lighting (25%).

If you run a leisure centre then you’ll know that it’s the pool and air conditioning and ventilation systems that will be costing you the most.

But how much?

Either way, it pays to monitor how much you’re using and where, which will help you identify where the biggest savings gains can be made.

Sub-metering can help identify cost savings – the meters allow you to unpick where energy is being used in real time, for example.

A building energy management system offers closer control and monitoring of building services performance, including the heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Settings can be changed quickly and easily, helping to reduce costs by 10%. The beauty of these is that they hand control to you when the guests are out – so no more leaving the bathroom lights on or the air con cranked up in an empty room.

Lots of solutions

There are plenty more options available such as motion sensors and, of course, better insulation. But in order to get the most out of these investments you also need to have your staff on board – and not just to ensure they turn the lights out.

They can also help check settings and keep an eye on equipment and systems.

Staff can also offer advice to guests and pass on feedback. Is the site too hot or too cold? Is the pool too warm? Indeed, an energy plan isn’t about making guests and staff uncomfortable. Staff retention can actually increase in an engaged business, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Meanwhile, The Carbon Trust says:

“Properly implemented energy management programmes often improve guest comfort, for example, by ensuring that room and water temperatures are appropriate. They can also enhance quality of service through the identification of potential faults before they become major problems. This can increase the incentive for customers to return.”

Brand reputation

The savings from energy efficiency are just one side of the story. Using less energy is at the front of everyone’s mind – from householders and small businesses to the global corporates and local and national government. The link between energy and carbon is also well understood.

This means your visitors are keen to see you making progress. It’s pretty easy to calculate your carbon footprint nowadays – and keep track of it. And you shouldn’t be afraid to do so.

You’ll already have an energy certificate on display so why not show customers how this relates to carbon and the difference the changes you’ve made are having.

Accor, which runs the likes of Novotel and Ibis, has taken this one step further. It will soon add a calculator to its app to tell guests about the environmental and economic impact of their stay (water consumption, carbon emissions, jobs created or supported).

This follows a survey of 7,000 guests, which showed that two out of three are willing to pay a little more to stay at a hotel that is acting responsibly.

Accor, with hundreds of hotels, has a wide-reaching sustainability plan. But in its recent update it admitted that though year-on-year rises in energy use have been reversed, progress has now plateaued.

According to the Accor 2016 sustainability report: “Efforts to optimise existing equipment in hotels (for example fine-tuning machine settings, training staff, fitting LEDs, flow control valves and presence sensors, and so forth) have run their course, and the decline in energy consumption has slowed down.”

More and more hospitality and leisure businesses will find themselves in this position. The low-hanging fruits have been squeezed dry. The mid-level investments, like LED lighting and motion sensors, are working – and yet energy prices and carbon taxes will keep rising and competitors have begun to spend more to save more.

Capital spend and Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

Some have already started to look at projects involving larger capital investments. They see these as a way to future-proof their businesses as energy prices inevitably rise. Given the 24/7 demands of these businesses, Combined Heat & Power (CHP) can be an attractive solution.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is recommended by government as a super-efficient means of creating energy; one in which heat – normally lost in the creation of electricity – is captured too.

The Carbon Trust has also highlighted the benefits for sites with high-energy demands. With Combined Heat and Power (CHP), carbon emissions also tumble.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) won’t be for every hotel or leisure centre, of course. Like a car engine, the systems also require maintenance to ensure they are running efficiently – but if they are then the savings can be considerable, as the Crowne Plaza Liverpool, is proving. To ascertain suitability for CHP, you should consider carrying out a feasibility study.

It’s not as easy as fitting LED lights or turning the hot water down to 60 degrees (which is ample for a clean, hot shower), but it’s another step towards being the best in class. Although CHP isn’t as cheap as LED lighting, the savings are greater and it offsets both heat and electricity.

Your bottom line will benefit, you’ll attract new guests and you business will be more competitive – not just now, but for years to come.

Takeaways:

  • These days you need to do more than monitor your energy monthly via a single bill – because that won’t show where you are using and losing energy.
  • You’ll need to keep track of everything from pool temperature and kitchen appliances to air conditioning units and any saunas and steam rooms
  • in every area of your site there will be opportunities to save energy - sometimes through simple measures
  • A building energy management system offers closer control and monitoring of building services performance, and can cut help reduce energy consumption by 10%
  • More significant savings are available through efficient energy production systems, like CHP

Monitoring your energy consumption is just the start. You can do so much more to cut costs and carbon emissions. Start today by downloading “How to create and implement an energy plan in Hospitality & Leisure”.

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Topics: Hospitality and Leisure

Ian Hopkins

Ian Hopkins is a technical sales professional and business leader with more than 15 years’ experience in delivering energy efficiency projects and strategy in Europe and the United States. Ian currently heads up the Sales and Marketing function as one of the board directors at ENER-G Combined Power Ltd.