UK hotels set for energy conference
How can you manage your energy consumption?
The UK’s first ever energy-saving conference – Hotel Energy 17 – is set to take place on 11th May.
Fran Hughes, director of ITP the International Tourism Partnership is chairing the event.
Taking place in Birmingham, Hotel Energy 17 is organised by energy management expert Vilnis Vesma in consultation with a panel from the hotel and hospitality sector.
To many hoteliers, saving energy implies spending scarce capital on projects that sometimes appear risky. While spend-to-save is part of the answer, Vilnis counsels adopting soft measures first. His twelve-step advice runs as follows:
- Price isn’t everything: true you should always shop around diligently for the best deal, but reducing consumption now - by avoiding waste and improving efficiency - will save you money during your current supply contracts as well as future years.
- First things first: before investing in capital projects to save energy, get a grip on hidden avoidable losses. This means engaging the support of all your staff, getting them to adopt more energy-conscious ways of working, to make suggestions, and to be more alert to possible waste.
- What makes them tick? Before devising any campaigns, find out how motivated and aware staff are, what would and wouldn’t engage their interest, and what other issues are important to them. In a big hotel chain an online questionnaire may be a practical solution, and should get about 30% response: but keep it short, and precede it with a few informal off-the-record face-to-face interviews to make sure it’s in touch with reality. For single establishments a paper questionnaire could be easier and more appropriate. One trick is to use open questions, invite people to discuss them with some of their colleagues and hand in joint responses.
- Incentivise with care: individual awards can be divisive, and cash awards that are withheld or diluted (for whatever reason) are demotivating. Be guided by what staff say in the attitude survey, but give preference to non-cash, team awards; or do something for the local community or a staff-nominated charity.
- Jump on the bandwagon: don’t start a separate energy initiative if you already have one going on quality, sustainability, environmental compliance, or anything else that you could piggy-back on. Coordinating activities will look more like joined-up management, and adding a new energy focus to an existing scheme may even help revive a project that was flagging.
- Train your key players: a small number of employees will have a disproportionate influence on energy consumption. Work out who they are (think maintenance, think kitchens) and arrange condensed, well-focused vocational training for them.
- Target and monitor: here you may need either some specialist training or the help of an outside expert. In a nutshell you need to establish how your weekly consumption of fuel and electricity relate to the weather, available daylight, occupancy rate or other measurable ‘driving factors’. Then monitor these factors on a weekly basis afterwards to estimate what consumption you would previously have expected - and confirm that actual consumptions fall below that figure. ITP’s Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative is a free tool and metric for measuring and recording carbon footprint per room, stay or meeting and it is free to download and use. Find it here.
- Keep it fresh: if the weekly savings tail off, it’s time for a new awareness campaign. Otherwise keep your money for something else.
- Act on significant exceptions: if your monitoring scheme unexpectedly shows a costly deviation from expected performance, get it investigated. Something simple could have gone wrong, triggering excessive consumption. It should be easy and cheap to rectify; and you would not want avoidable waste to become an established part of your budget.
- Communicate: weekly monitoring will provide evidence that savings are being made. Successes and setbacks alike will help to keep the issue in people’s minds, and providing regular feedback is all part of keeping the workforce engaged. But remember to keep listening as well.
- Do say: “lean means green”;
- Don’t say: “bring warm clothes and a torch to work this winter”.
Vilnis, a former energy manager in local government, believes that the first priority must be to squeeze the best performance you can out of the assets you currently own or operate. Good maintenance is often the key here, so Hotel Energy 17 will cover two very important areas where hotels either get things wrong, or enjoy significant opportunities: automatic control; and chilling and air-conditioning. There are also opportunities for less-wasteful operation, notably in kitchens, which will also be covered.
Of course where the hotel industry is quite unusual is the degree to which its energy consumption and costs are actually controlled by its customers: transient occupants who perhaps have little or no interest in their impact on your business or the environment, and who may indeed see free-issue heating, hot water, lighting and air conditioning as theirs to consume. The conference will have a segment focusing on this ‘elephant in the room’ problem and delegates will have the chance to brainstorm ideas to augment a six-step protocol that is going to be launched at the event.
More details can be found at HotelEnergy17.com and Green Hotelier readers enjoy a discount of 30%. Just book using discount code GRHOT.