Talking Point: Renewable Energy for Island Hotels

Renewable energy solutions can be particularly important for island hotels

Renewable energy solutions can be particularly important for island hotels

Green Hotelier Talking Point

Welcome to our Talking Point theme for June which is tied to UN World Environment Day on June 5th, and considers energy consumption and energy efficiency. This year the UN is focused on Small Island Developing Nations. UGE's Ryan Gilchrist explains why hotels and resorts in these areas can serve both the environment and their bottom line by incorporating renewable sources of energy.

Tourism is a leading industry for many small island nations. But the scenic beaches and remote locations that make islands such appealing destinations also make them more susceptible to high energy costs and rising sea levels caused by climate change. The challenges faced by island nations are formidable, but hotels and resorts stand to benefit immensely from addressing these challenges head on. For a number of reasons, tropical islands are an ideal place to expand the use of renewable energy. By implementing clean power sources, hoteliers can lower their operating expenses, attract more business, and reduce their strain on natural resources. No matter where they're located, hotels are high-impact energy consumers, with guest rooms, kitchens, pools, and other facilities that require power around the clock. In addition, island resorts in many cases do not have access to a reliable electrical grid, and frequently must rely upon diesel generators to provide backup energy supply. This diesel fuel is typically imported, driving the costs - and carbon emissions - even higher. Managing these energy costs becomes a big budget line item and an even bigger headache. In addition to providing energy cost savings, and energy reliability, renewable energy systems are also a smart business decision for attracting new visitors. Consumers are increasingly discerning, and green practices factor into where they ultimately decide to stay. Websites like Travelocity, Expedia, and TripAdvisor are now promoting green hotels to their visitors as well. For hotels that have implemented sustainability measure, these priorities then translate into higher occupancy rates. A recent survey by McGraw Hill construction found that the majority of green hotels report that their occupancy rate grew by 15% or higher. For islands where tourism drives the economy, this increase in guests means more economic activity in the region, from a more environmentally conscious group of consumers. Installing a renewable energy system puts the power back in the hands of the hotelier. Reliable electricity is generated locally on-site, with solar panels and wind turbines that are managed on the hotel property, and operating costs are reduced by providing renewable power at rates that are lower than utility rates. Renewable power systems are often financed to eliminate all up front capital costs. Tropical islands have an abundance of sun and wind, making them an especially attractive location to harness renewable power. Energy storage solutions can also be implemented to provide a back-up system that eliminates the need for diesel generators. Replacing generators with clean power greatly reduces emissions. Many hotels and resorts already adhere to ambitious sustainability goals, and wind turbines and solar panels can provide a visual representation of this commitment that is visible to every guest. For example, the Hilton in Ft. Lauderdale received a boost in media attention when it installed six eye-catching wind turbines on the hotel's roof. It's an opportunity to educate visitors, create buzz for your brand, and draw attention to the abundance of renewable energy resources in the area, which can have positive ripple effects. The UN recently released its IPCC report, which detailed the importance of shifting to clean sources of energy in order to combat climate change. For hoteliers, especially on small island states, the decision to make the switch should be an easy one. Resources: More information on UGE's renewable energy solutions for hotels

Ryan Gilchrist

Ryan Gilchrist

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