Marriott hotels using energy demand reduction to cut carbon footprint

Customers generally visit the Marriott hotel near Regent's Park in London, for a good night's sleep, not to help fight climate change. But a radical programme of energy demand reduction is underway to help them do both.

Everything from the air conditioning in the lounge to the ice coolers in the corridors and the fridges in the kitchens can be turned down at a moment’s notice if the national electricity system requires. It is all triggered via an automated signal to a set top box installed by local technology company, KiWi Power.

This means the Marriott chain is permanently on stand-by to help cut its power, but believes it can do so without customers noticing.

“We were the first UK hotel company to embrace demand response,” explains John Conlon, senior director facilities and project management for Marriott International Europe.

“We plan to get all our eligible UK hotels on to the programme and maximise the reduction this year.”

Conlon says environmental awareness is expected of a businesses like his – but it also makes commercial sense.

A portfolio of 140 Marriott-managed hotels in Britain and beyond Europe, spends $90m ($59m) a year on energy.

Anything that can make a dent in this bill is good news for the company and helps Britain keep the lights on in a green way.

Marriott reduces its own bill by using less power but also gets paid a supplement for being on standby.

Marriott is not alone. Dorset-based Bournemouth Water has also signed up with KiWi Power, an energy technology company specialising in demand reduction, to be part of various energy reduction schemes.

The water company, facing a £100m takeover from larger rival Pennon, uses a tremendous amount of gas, electricity and diesel oil to run the pumps, treatment works and filter beds needed to provide half a million customers with 140 litres a day of fresh water.

Bournemouth is paid a monthly fee to be on standby and then additional payments for each request to provide power at times of peak demand to the National Grid under the short-term operating reserve (Stor) scheme. Such short-term demand boosts can occur, for example, when millions of TV sets switch on simultaneously to watch a major sporting event, such as the World Cup final.

Tim Latcham, head of water supply at Bournemouth, says: “We basically produce water but in becoming more energy efficient we want to be viewed as a green company that tries to do the right thing.”

Two years ago KiWi Power had 100 sites working on what is known as demand-response. Now it has 750 including airports, hospitals and printing plants.

But Ziko Abram, a former hedge fund manager who co-founded KiWi, says it should be far more.

He is frustrated that the government and the National Grid are not pushing demand reduction or response much harder. In recent auctions under the so-called capacity mechanism, the demand-response sector was offered one year contracts while some promising to construct new fossil fuel plants were awarded 15 years deals. In the end, even coal-fired power stations received subsidies under the scheme while demand-response firms won less than half a percent of what was on offer.

And yet Abram points out that the more Britain has of it the less new power stations it has to build.

“We are always cheaper (than newbuild) and always better for the environment.”

Terry Macalister

This article first appeared in the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network

John Conlon at Energy Management Forum 2015

John Conlon will be among the expert speakers featuring at edie’s fourth national Energy Management Forum in Birmingham later this month.

Conlon will be speaking in two sessions – firstly, looking at how organisations can mitigate the effects of rapidly changing oil prices on energy managers; and later taking a more in-depth look at Marriott’s experiences with demand response. 

Find out more about the Energy MAnagement Forum and register to attend the show on 20 May here.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie