Whitbread to expand onsite solar to 70 more Premier Inn hotels

The UK's largest hospitality company, Whitbread, will roll out its onsite solar array scheme to a further 70 of its Premier Inn locations this year to help it meet its "industry-leading" science-based target.

The firm, which has pledged to halve its carbon emissions intensity by 50% by 2025 and by 88% by 2050, installed on-site solar on 88 of its hotels between 2013-2015. It estimates that the 70 new Anesco solar panel installations, which are set to be in place by the end of autumn, will raise the combined solar capacity of Premier Inn sites to more than 3MW – enough energy to power 2.9 million washing machine cycles.

“Solar technology is a key part of our sustainability programme and helps ensure we always act as a force for good,” Whitbread’s director of sustainability, James Pitcher, said. “As a long-term investment, solar is a fantastic proposition for us.”

Once the new solar panels, which will have a combined capacity of more than 1.6MW, are installed, Whitbread will have on-site solar arrays on one in five of its Premier Inn locations.

The firm’s current 88 installations already provide approximately 10% of each Premier Inn hotel’s total annual energy usage and are delivering £280,000 in cost savings – but whilst the original solar arrays qualified for feed-in tariff subsidies, having been registered before the 2016 reduction in tariff rates, the 70 new installations will not be eligible.

Anesco’s executive chairman, Steve Shine, said the move by Whitbread to continue installing solar panels despite recent Government cuts to solar subsidies proves that the technology “is still a viable option for businesses”.

“There continues to be a growing appetite among commercial organisations for energy efficiency and renewable technologies as a tried-and-tested model for reducing energy costs, while improving sustainability and lowering emissions,” Shine added.

Pitcher added that solar technology is a “great fit” for Whitbread and that the expansion of its solar scheme further demonstrates the brand’s commitment to “sustainable, environmentally-aware working practices.”

Sustainability investments

Smart heating has been installed along with the solar arrays to minimise energy consumption at Premier Inn hotels, while Whitbread has additionally switched 100,000 light bulbs to more energy-efficient models across its portfolio estate.

Last year, Whitbread agreed a renewable energy tariff with SSE covering all of the firm’s purchased electricity, meaning the company is powered by 100% renewable energy in the UK, with the exception of 15 Whitbread sites where small-scale combined heat and power (CHP) units have been installed.

As for water, Whitbread became the first UK hospitality chain to receive self-supply licence to deliver its own water and wastewater services from regulator Ofwat last year. It hopes that self-supply will enable the brand’s water systems to become more efficient and sustainable, while delivering cost reductions and greater consumption control across its estate. 

Sarah George

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