29 September 2023 Energy Management, Net Zero

From data to decarbonisation: A roadmap for hotels to reach net zero

Woman in hotel room

Amidst the urgent need to address climate change, the UK government has set legislation to achieve net zero emissions across all industries by the year 2050.

This ambitious goal along with increased consumer pressures, has elevated sustainability to become an essential pillar of responsible business practices. As a result, hotels are increasingly directing their efforts towards reducing their carbon footprint. Whilst the path to achieving net zero emissions might seem challenging for some hoteliers, with a data-driven approach, it can become a tangible reality.

In this blog, we delve into a comprehensive roadmap that guides hotels towards achieving net zero emissions, while answering the critical questions about carbon reduction within the hospitality industry. We will pinpoint the critical steps and strategies that hotels can adopt to reduce emissions, ranging from the implementation of energy-efficient technologies to educating guests and employees.

Quick view

Why should hotels focus on reducing carbon emissions?

The hospitality sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with annual energy costs for the industry exceeding £1.3 billion, resulting in over 8 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.  In light of this, the government is exerting pressure on all industries to reduce emissions, introducing heightened energy regulations such as the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) to drive action. In addition, the hospitality sector is under growing pressure from both customers and investors to adopt green practices, prompting a strategic focus on emission reduction to safeguard long-term viability, positive brand image and ensure compliance.

Another pivotal driving force behind hotels’ reduction efforts is the promise of cost savings. Investors recognise that sustainability isn’t just an ethical commitment but a smart financial investment. By implementing energy-efficient technologies and practices, hotels can significantly reduce operational expenses, with these savings accumulating over time, creating substantial long-term benefits.

What are the key sources of carbon emissions in the hotel industry?

The hotel industry’s carbon emissions stem from various sources, classified into three scopes:

  • Scope 1: originate directly from the building or site, primarily from gas consumption for heating, hot water and catering.
  • Scope 2: result from electricity usage for lighting, heating, cooling, appliances, and catering services.
  • Scope 3: encompass a broader range, including energy not directly consumed by the hotel but used indirectly in the provision and use of its services and products, such as food production and laundry services.

How frequently should carbon data be collected and updated?

Data collection and updates are essential for effective emission reduction strategies. While an annual review serves as a minimum requirement for reporting, more proactive approaches are recommended. Monthly assessments provide a comprehensive overview, and the integration of advanced systems such as smart or AMR meters allows for real-time monitoring (every half hour), enhancing the precision and responsiveness of sustainability efforts.

How can hotels set carbon reduction goals?

Hotels can establish attainable net zero targets by assessing several factors. First and foremost, hotels must consider their growth trajectory and estate stability as this impacts emission projections. It’s sensible to also include any upcoming refurbishment plans, as these provide ample opportunities for energy-efficient upgrades.

Furthermore, data-driven insights are crucial for accurately pinpointing areas that require focus. Detailed energy consumption data reveals patterns and inefficiencies within the business, allowing hotels to identify priority areas for improvement and set goals. For example, if data shows that a significant portion of energy is being consumed during non-peak hours, hotels can target these periods for energy-saving measures.

What are the common challenges that hotels might face during their journey toward net zero?

By effectively utilising data-driven insights, hotels can seamlessly integrate sustainability into the guest experience and overall operations. However, reaching net zero does not come without its challenges, here are just a few that hotels may encounter on their journey:

  • Lack of available capital and capacity to invest in net zero: A shortage of available capital and resources can hinder net zero progress, particularly for costly initiatives like site refurbishment, energy-efficient equipment, and renewable energy installations. Many hotels lack the financial means for such investments, including projects like electric vehicle charging points.
  • Lack of clarity on the value of net zero investments: The lack of clarity regarding the value of net zero investments is a significant barrier. Some stakeholders may not fully grasp the financial benefits, such as energy cost savings and increased profits, or understand how to translate sustainability concepts into clear information for board members and investors.
  • Building ownership collaboration: Collaborating with landlords and lease owners about sustainable upgrades can be challenging. Highlighting the tangible value and advantages of upgrades, such as cost savings and enhanced property value, is essential for garnering their support.
  • Data limitations: Limited access to comprehensive and reliable data can hinder decision-making. Partnering with experienced data analysts and implementing effective data collection systems can bridge this gap and provide valuable insights for informed actions.

How can hotels promote sustainability to guests and staff?

Engaging guests in sustainable practices is key. There are various ways to guide behaviour towards sustainable practices. Here are a few effective ways promote sustainability among guests and staff:

  • Limited choice: By offering fewer options that are more sustainable, hotels can subtly encourage eco-friendly decisions, making it easier for guests to select greener alternatives. Examples include using refillable dispensers or bulk amenities instead of single-use toiletries.
  • Employee incentives: Providing incentives – such as bonuses or recognition programs – to staff for promoting sustainability can lead to better guest experiences as employees actively guide guests toward environmentally conscious choices.
  • Informative stickers: Placing helpful prompts in rooms can raise awareness about energy and water conservation, helping guests to make mindful decisions.
  • User-friendly controls: Intuitive controls with clear explanations of their benefits can empower guests to adjust lighting, heating, and other amenities for energy efficiency.
  • Comprehensive education: Regularly educating staff about sustainability measures and their positive impact cultivates a shared commitment to sustainable practices, creating a culture of conscious decision-making.

What are the key steps to reduce the carbon footprint of hotels?

1. Assess the landscape

Assessing the current landscape is essential before implementing carbon reduction measures in hotels. Start by assessing current emissions and carbon sources using primary energy meter data and submetering to understand energy consumption trends. This baseline data facilitates benchmarking and assessing energy-saving opportunities, setting the foundation for informed decision-making.

2. Control and monitor

The adoption of smart energy systems is crucial to enabling the UK’s net zero goal. In hotels, there are various devices or applications that require energy to operate. To achieve more efficient energy use, energy consuming equipment– such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) – need to be integrated into a system, which not only gathers information about the energy usage but also gives the building manager the ability to control them.

That’s where Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) step in. BEMS are integrated systems for monitoring and controlling energy services. They help to identify and recommend possible actions that can improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Implementing BEMS is vital for hotels as it can pinpoint inefficiencies, systems faults, and develop strategies for optimisation.

3. Implementation

Hotels can achieve carbon reductions significantly greater than the typical near-term Science Based Targets initiatives (SBTi) through a multifaceted approach that combines efficiency enhancements and technologies. Here are the primary strategies for hotels to reduce carbon emissions:

  • Insulation: Improving insulation and air tightness in buildings is vital for reducing heating demand. This includes enhancing wall, ceiling, and floor insulation to minimise heat transfer, sealing gaps and cracks to prevent air leakage, and installing energy-efficient windows and doors. Additionally, utilising smart thermostats and sensors for precise temperature control can further optimise energy usage.
  • LED lighting: LED lighting offers longer lifespan, instant illumination, reduced heat emissions and substantial energy savings, all contributing to significant carbon reduction in hotels.
  • Solar PV: Any organisation with carbon reduction targets should be looking for solar photovoltaic (PV) opportunities on its sites. Solar PV provides clean, sustainable energy, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and lowering operational costs.
  • Electrified heat: From mid-2030s onwards, it will not longer be possible to replace gas boilers, mandating a critical shift within hotels to move towards electrified heating solutions, such as heat pumps. Yet, currently around 40-50% of commercial buildings heating still rely on gas. While the ultimate goal is to shift away from gas, upgrading aging boilers to more efficient condensing models can also deliver immediate benefits in case heat pumps are not suitable.

4. Evaluate

Hotels must continuously monitor and evaluate their progress towards net zero emissions, measuring energy consumption, carbon emissions, and the effectiveness of implemented measures. Regular data updates allow for hotels to assess the effectiveness of implemented strategies, make necessary adjustments, and stay on course towards goals.

What are some immediate steps hotels can take to start reducing carbon emissions?

Hotels can embark on the journey to reduce carbon emissions through immediate, actionable steps that don’t necessarily incur high costs. These initial, cost-effective steps lay the groundwork for a comprehensive carbon reduction strategy. Here are some key elements to consider:

  • Behavioural education: One immediate step hotels can take to reduce their carbon footprint is raise awareness about energy-saving practices among both staff and guests, empowering individuals to take responsible actions during their stay. Staff can play a crucial role in conveying these practices to guests, ensuring that everyone is aligned with the hotel’s sustainability goals.
  • Turn off appliances: Implementing effortless adjustments such as turning off lights and appliances when not in use and ensuring devices are switched off overnight and encouraging guests to do the same.
  • Manual control: Encouraging manual control adjustments, for instance, hotels can provide clear instructions in guest rooms on adjusting thermostat settings for energy conservation and encourage guests to set the thermostat appropriately depending on the time of year.

Is there funding available to support hotels in their carbon reduction efforts?

There are various funding options available to aid hotels on their journey to net zero. While large organisations might find fewer government funding avenues, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are more likely to secure support, often through smaller funds from regional councils and zero-interest loans to encourage sustainability initiatives.

At SMS, we are able to alleviate the financial strain on businesses by covering the expense of acquiring CaRe (Carbon Reduction) assets and energy transition technologies for your property, ensuring your sustainability efforts remain financially feasible and realistically achievable.

Work with an expert

With nearly 30 years’ experience in energy management, we understand the unique challenges hotels face.  We not only provide the necessary resources and data management to identify energy-saving opportunities but also offer fully funded solutions to implement these opportunities, facilitating the adoption of flexibility and low-carbon energy technologies that enhance operational sustainability.

Our experienced consultants and engineers advise you in selecting the most suitable low-carbon, energy-saving technologies for your sites, ensuring your energy projects progress from concept to completion. We assist in securing board-level support, establishing effective project delivery models, and handling the installation, operation, and data management of your assets.

Importantly, we can also remove the financial obstacle of investing in renewable energy and carbon reduction technologies, providing asset funding, risk sharing, and the engineering expertise to design and deliver your sustainability objectives.

Get in touch

Work with an award-winning Net Zero Leader to deliver your business energy strategy and achieve your low-carbon goals.