We interviewed Tom Lindberg and Stein Amble Haugan, Managing Director and Key Account Manager of ECOHZ, to learn more about global renewable energy solutions.
GH: What do you see in particular is the challenge for hotel groups, which may have properties all over the world, in switching to 100% renewable?
Stein: Almost all hotels focus their environmental efforts on initiatives that are easy to implement and that are visible to their guests. In the bathroom, hotel guests will often see reminders to reduce their water consumption, instructions to hang up towels for reuse and switch off the light when leaving the room. But hotel groups rarely go beyond this, and don’t mention the source of the energy consumed by their properties.
Since hotel groups often have properties scattered throughout the world, sourcing renewable energy for all of them is seen as a challenge. However, retail giants like IKEA show how it can be done, even with 300 stores in over 40 countries.
To get the ball rolling, a hotel group should create a central sustainability strategy that outlines the viable renewable energy options in the places they operate. If this overall strategy is combined with a central procurement strategy, the group will be able to effectively evaluate their choices and their collective purchasing power will increase.
GH: How does a commitment to 100% renewable energy tie into COP21 commitments?
Tom: COP21 achieved a global agreement on curbing effects of climate change, the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the rise in the world’s average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Companies can do their bit to help meet this target by consuming clean, renewable energy and reducing their carbon footprints, or even creating new renewable energy.
Recognising that curbing climate change is critical to securing long-term value creation, more and more multinational companies have pledged to reduce their use of energy produced from oil, coal and gas. By joining networks like RE100 , whose members have all committed to using 100% renewable energy, companies are driving the climate agenda, and pushing national leaders to commit to even more stringent and ambitious goals.
GH: Are there any hotel groups, which are part of RE100?
Stein: Although isolated segments of the hotel supply chain have joined RE100, no hotel groups have fully committed to RE100. This means that there is a unique opportunity for a hotel group to be a first mover, and commit to 100% renewable energy; joining forces with forward-thinking companies like IKEA, Apple, Coca-Cola and Google.
GH: Which countries are leading on renewable energy, and which are lagging behind? What’s holding them back?
Tom: Europe and North America are both at the vanguard of the renewable energy movement. To document their use of renewable energy, companies can purchase Guarantees of Origin in Europe and RECs in North America. Increasingly, regions, like Turkey and the Gulf, are following suit, and enabling access to similar purchasing options. Although solutions vary between markets, there are now options for market based instruments on five continents.
To use these options correctly, we recommend that companies engage an expert who understands the renewable market conditions in the given markets. The company can then determine which options will allow them to achieve the goals outlined in their overall sustainability strategy. The preferred options will vary based on the size of the hotel group’s operations, the available market systems for renewable energy where they operate, and the renewable-energy instruments available in the specific locations.
GH: Thinking at property level, what is the biggest challenge for a hotel looking to switch to renewable energy? What might they need to watch out for?
Stein: Since hotel groups tend to have several units spread out across several locations, as opposed to one large factory or data centre, the biggest challenge is coordinating the purchase of renewable energy across all properties and operations.
To make this easier, hotel groups can aggregate their energy consumption. If a hotel group knows exactly how much energy they consume in a specific region or country, they can then consolidate their purchases for each market, giving them more buying power and reducing the number of transactions necessary to achieve their goals.
Hotel groups with greater ambitions can go beyond consuming 100% renewable energy consumption and actually contribute to new renewable energy production. ECOHZ  for example, has developed a new, innovative concept called GO2. With this option, every time a hotel group purchases a MWh of renewable energy, a portion of the purchase will go towards supporting predefined renewable energy projects. These projects are ready for construction, but lack top financing. This means that a hotel group can choose a specific renewable project they wish to support, tailored to their needs. The projects will use mainstream technology such as wind, solar or hydro.
GO2  is an accessible, low-risk option for companies that wish to unlock new renewable energy projects and bring more renewable energy to the grid. GO2 enables additionality and a compelling engagement level for a hotel group.
GH: Are there any incentives and / or benefits to switching to renewable energy?
Stein: Just like many of the companies that have joined RE100, the hotel groups that switch to renewable energy will be able to communicate and show their commitment. The first mover, in particular, will be acknowledged as a thought leader defining the new industry standard. Just as we now expect hotels to encourage guests to reuse towels and save water, we’re also certain that it won’t be long before customers, investors and other stakeholders simply expect hotel groups to document their renewable energy consumption.
GH: Hotel groups are very dependent on investors for development and very dependent on owners for management of properties and the two often have different priorities. What do stakeholders expect when it comes to sustainable properties and how can hoteliers communicate this to owners in a way that makes good business sense?
Tom: This is certainly a challenge, but it can be reconciled if you look at what they both have in common. Firstly, if we look at the travel industry today, more and more travellers are demanding sustainable travel and eco-tourism. Secondly, imagine the implications once RE100 companies start to look at their current travel arrangements. For these companies to reach their sustainability goals, they will eventually start to look at the whole value chain of travel, including the hotels where they stay.
GH: What advice would you give to hotel groups, which want to commit to switching all their properties to 100% renewable energy?
Stein: I recommend that hotel groups map their operations and look at the various renewable energy alternatives in the different markets. Talk to experts, who can map out alternatives, and help a hotel group find the solutions best suited to its global operations. The group can then build a long-term strategy, which truly makes a difference and shows their commitment to renewable energy.
Integrating targets and ambitions across the entire organization is critical to reaching the 100% renewable energy goal. Therefore, communications, sustainability and the relevant procurement teams should all work together when a hotel group is defining the targets and the processes needed to reach 100% renewable energy consumption.
GH: Can a switch to renewable energy help hotels become carbon neutral or carbon positive? What would you recommend as good carbon mitigation programmes that hotel groups could collaborate on to achieve a reduction at scale?
Tom: I always recommend starting with reducing your consumption, then documenting that you use renewable energy and, finally, helping contribute to the production of renewable energy with a solution like GO2 . And start today!