Energy Storage is Key to Hotels Going Green – For the Good of Their Customers, and Their Bottom Line
Businesses are under increasing pressure to “go green,” and one way companies are doing that is with their business travel practices. As the COVID pandemic winds down, corporate travel is making a comeback, with in-person meetings and business conferences once again on the upswing. At the same time, shareholders, as well as customers, increasingly want organizations to show corporate responsibility through adoption of ESG agendas – with the E (environment) part of that agenda relating directly to corporate travel and events.
Surveys have found that as many as 75% of all travelers want hotels to make better choices – and most are willing to pay higher rates in order to support that effort. In other words, adopting environmentally friendly practices isn't just good for the environment – it's good for business, too.
And many hotels have indeed adopted environment-friendly practices – such as changing sheets only once every few days (unless guests request otherwise), replacing disposable plastic with reusable plates, cups and utensils, placing recycling receptacles in public areas, and more. There is do doubt that these steps do help the environment to some extent. But taking more drastic actions is difficult because hotels do not want to compromise on customer comfort and service.
This is especially challenging when it comes to energy consumption. US Department of Energy data shows that “hotels are one of the highest energy and water consumers per square foot,” with a single hotel room incurring nearly twice as much in energy costs as that of an average home. Lighting and cooling alone are responsible for half of hotel energy usage. Thus, it stands to reason, hotels should be taking steps to cut energy usage – automatically turning off lights/air conditioning/heating when a guest leaves a room, using energy efficient bulbs and appliances, lowering the temperature in the pool by a few degrees, and similar energy efficient moves. Not only does it lower carbon footprint – it lowers electricity costs, increasing a property's viability and profitability.
But while customers – both business and leisure – want hotels to be more environmentally conscientious, they don't necessarily want to sacrifice the luxuries that generally come with a hotel stay. Guests want air-conditioning on hot days, heating on cold days, lights, TV and fast internet around the clock, access to room service with freshly-made food anytime day or night, and more. All of those features require electricity, and plenty of it. What's a hotelier to do?
One way out of this dilemma is to concentrate not on how much electricity a property uses – but when it uses it, and how carbon-intensive that electricity is. Because the kW provided by the grid are not all created equal. There are some “good” kilowatts generated during the day by solar or wind that are very low in carbon, and there are “bad” kilowatts generated in times when renewables are not available that are more carbon intensive and usually more expensive. When possible, hotels should consume electricity at the times of day when electricity is cheaper and made from renewable and less at peak times when electricity is more expensive and generated by fossil fuel-produced electricity. By preferring “good” kilowatts – from solar and other renewable electricity production systems – instead of the fossil fuel-produced “bad” kilowatts, they will be doing more than their fair share to reduce their carbon footprint. And those “good” sources of power are a lot cheaper than the traditional sources – meaning they will be able to cut costs.
But what about when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing? While it is true that the growing number of advanced storage solutions at utility companies allow some “good” electricity made from renewable energy to be available in these off-hours, hotels can do much more.
Hotels can implement a wide range of on-premise, or so-called “behind-the-meter” energy storage solutions. In addition to batteries that are not always safe to install in a building, hotels can implement thermal energy storage systems, which include storing energy in elements such as ice and water. Even though hotels will use additional electricity during the day to charge these systems, that electricity comes from renewable sources like solar and thus produces zero carbon, and they will be saving money by discharging the system during peak hours and thus avoiding using electricity that is more expensive and more carbon intensive. These solutions can ensure that hotels utilize as much clean energy as possible, while also saving money and without impacting their guest's comfort or experience at all.
Implementing these behind the meter solutions on their roofs and other unused parts of their property also gives hotels a unique and powerful story to tell about their ESG efforts, setting them apart from competitors on a topic that many guests, especially business travelers, value highly, and can even make or break a decision to stay or hold a corporate event on a particular property.
Adopting a green agenda is something all of us should be aspiring to, but some institutions and businesses – like hotels – face greater challenges. There's only so many compromises a hotel can make to the user experience; anything beyond that border, and customers will just find a more comfortable place to stay. By maximizing their use of “good” energy – produced by renewable systems and stored for use during off-hours – hotels will be able to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, without reducing their customers' comfort.