Energy savings in two easy steps
Energy savings in two easy steps
06 OCTOBER 2009 8:03 AM

Switching light bulbs and performance contracting are two ways to reduce energy consumption.

Many hotel operators and owners continue to be reluctant to engage in a sustainable development strategy. They view it as a costly exercise, particularly when it comes to energy management measures. It simply isn’t so. Nonetheless, here are ideas to help you achieve energy savings.

1. Efficient lighting

Once more, the simplest initiative to take is the replacement of all hotel light bulbs. This step eventually will reduce energy costs by 15 percent on average. I recommend operators look into LED (lighting emitting diode) to replace their current bulbs. Though CFL (compact fluorescent lighting) reduces a hotel’s energy consumption considerably, LEDs are more efficient and don’t contain mercury. LEDs last longer than the CFLs, which last longer than incandescent lighting.

The challenge is LEDs aren’t yet available in mass production. Because they’re much more expensive, you should speak to a professional and develop a personalized comparison of purchase cost, life expectancy and energy consumption.

And if nothing else convinces you to switch to CFLs or LEDs now, you should know the U.S. Congress passed a bill on 18 December 2007 stating all incandescent bulbs will be banned from the U.S. by 2014. The phase-out of incandescent lights is to begin with the 100-watt bulb in 2012, and end in 2014, with the 40-watt bulb. Other countries will ban incandescent lighting earlier: Australia in 2009 and Europe in 2012.

So don’t dwell on design and color issues because producers of these bulbs are improving their products quickly. In any case, both technologies will be the norm 1 January 2015.

2. Energy management

There’s another great reason that quells any negative argument from those still saying being sustainable is expensive, particularly during an economic crisis. That reason is a business model developed by several energy management companies that search for all the opportunities to reduce your energy bill, offering a satisfaction guarantee while a third-party lender invests for you. Eureka!

One such company is 120-year-old Johnson Controls. The company has three divisions, including building efficiency that partners with the Clinton Climate Initiative.

The company starts by visiting a building and assessing all the opportunities of reducing energy consumption, said Peter White, director of private sector and strategic initiatives for North America. The company establishes a report that grades the projects by its return on investment. At this stage, its work is free of charge. If the property owner is interested, he can enter into a project development agreement to conduct the remaining engineering assessment, which validates the cost and benefit outlined in the preliminary proposal. If the numbers are validated, the owner may then implement the contract. Costs incurred are rolled into the program, so there’s no cost to the hotel. If the owner doesn’t move forward with the contract, he owes Johnson Controls the engineering costs incurred.

This model is called performance contracting. Johnson Controls estimates how much energy consumption it’ll save the property by having the program implemented. These projects sometimes are funded by a third-party lender. The hotel will retire the debt service through the savings that are guaranteed by the energy services company. It’s an amazing solution to help those who don’t want to use, or don’t have, the capital to invest at the moment. Johnson Controls may suggest a lender, but it’s up to the client to determine who it wants to use.

Johnson Controls is an organization that operates in all 50 states and throughout the world on any type of building, small or large, hotels or restaurants, new or old. The average square footage is 100,000 square feet and larger so the economies of scale become attractive. Obviously, for a new building, the return might not be as significant.

One more outcome is that new technology may help reduce staffing level. The ROI companies can expect varies usually from five to seven years. The benefits are numerous: infrastructure renewal, quick payback and reduction of carbon footprint are a few. There’s no risk for the client because Johnson Controls guarantees the savings. If they don’t occur, the company guarantees it’ll reimburse the lender. This program has a 99.7-percent success ratio so far. Its history includes US$16 billion worth of guaranteed energy savings, so you can see the business approach is proven. There are other companies that offer similar services such as Honeywell and Siemens.

In conclusion, I’ll echo the words of Peter White, “It would be criminal not to take action after reading this article!”

Hervé Houdré has been general manager of the Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C., since 2004.  He’s recognized for introducing refinements that impact profit and increase market share. Under his leadership, the Willard InterContinental has embarked on a sustainability program, Willard InterContinental - The Next 100 Years. The hotel published its first GRI Standard Sustainability Report available at

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