Energy has taken the No. 2 spot on hotel managers’ lists of most-costly operating expenses. “Next to labor, energy costs are the second-highest group of expenses we have. Because it’s so important to the economy brands [to keep costs down], an almost-equal amount of attention needs to be given to energy and energy costs - especially because, as of late, they have been rising at a much more rapid rate,” says Dan Gilligan, vice president of utilities and administrative service, Accor NA, Carrollton, TX.
The brands in the portfolio (Red Roof Inn, Sofitel, Novotel, Studio 6, Motel 6, and Ibis) are using smart strategies and some the best tools available to proactively manage energy use throughout hotel properties. With many booked rooms conditioning the air to meet guests’ preferences even while they are away - sometimes for as long as 12 or more hours per day - cutting back on wasted energy has been an obvious target of the program.
Additional priorities include analyzing energy-consumption patterns at owned properties, testing energy-efficient equipment and (when proven effective) implementing it as a standard, and sharing best practices and energy-management strategies across the portfolio.
To gain a better understanding of the portfolio’s energy profile, Accor NA outsourced bill payment and processing. Its service provider extracts information such as consumption and demand- and cost-related data from billing records. The consolidation of this data makes analysis easier. “It helps us understand the usage patterns of the properties and how they differ based on areas of the country, age of the buildings, and certain design characteristics. Understanding how energy is consumed in properties is extremely critical to making business decisions about where and how we attack conservation projects,” says Gilligan.
|Dan Gilligan, Vice President of|
Utilities and Administrative
Service, Accor NA,
The system has also helped validate the technologies that are truly effective at reducing energy consumption. As an example, when newer heat-pump technology was installed to improve HVAC efficiency in economy hotels in the Northern United States, the data verified a reduction in energy use. “We were able to show that [the technology] would have a good return on the incremental investment. We used that data and information to change our standard,” Gilligan explains.
To halt the practice of conditioning booked (but unoccupied) guestrooms, Accor NA investigated wireless thermostats, PTAC controllers, and sensors by installing the technology in 23 U.S. hotel properties in 2003. After a year of testing the systems and validating energy savings, the company installed the technology in the majority of its properties. Energy savings of between 20 to 25 percent are achieved by the computerized system’s ability to set back temperatures to energy-conserving levels when the room is unoccupied and resume the guest’s desired temperature upon return.
Beneficial strategies and technologies that assist with energy-efficiency goals are formally documented as guidelines in the Accor Hotels Environment Charter. Originally introduced in 1998 by Accor NA’s parent company, the charter covered 15 environmental action items. Today, the charter offers 65 tips for environmentally friendly operation and resource conservation to general managers. Even though energy is only one of the nine areas highlighted in the charter, the advice provided is substantial. Of the 19 energy-related guidelines noted, many relate to lighting and HVAC systems. Every guideline explains the reasons behind the initiative as well as the necessary steps to achieve compliance.
With so many guests preferring to patronize environmentally friendly hotels today, it wouldn’t be surprising if reservations increased as energy consumption dropped across the Accor NA portfolio.