It is estimated that India has more than 1.9 million hotels across the country and about 90 million hotel rooms. Of course, majority of them are medium and small sized and are below the 5-star category. Though the accurate statistics is not available, its estimated that the number of hotels above 5-Star category may not be more than 5% of the total number. Nevertheless, the number suggests that hospitality sector plays an important role in the economic growth of the nation. Indian tourism sector of which hospitality is a part, contributes 8-9% of the GDP.
Hotels are energy guzzlers
But contribution of hotel and tourism industry to the economy’s GDP comes at a cost which is not measurable in clear terms. This cost is mainly in terms of Green House Gas emissions which are responsible for global warming. At the same time, its also wrong to paint the industry with a single brush because large hotels generally have a higher impact to the emissions than guest houses, self-catering apartments or campgrounds. This is due to the extra facilities in the large hotels such as restaurants, spas and bars which consume more energy. Further, energy consumption of hotels is different to other building categories and also the energy consumption of hotels differs based on the geographical location. On the whole, hotels have been recognized as a high emission source in the non-domestic building category.
Substantial gains for EIH group
However, its also true that many hotel groups in India have realised this fact and have started acting on it. One of the easiest and commonest ways to start moving on the path of controlling GHG emissions is through replacement of conventional lamps with energy efficient LED lamps often with inclusion of smart controls. EIH Ltd (erstwhile East India Hotels) says that with various energy conservation measures taken in the Financial Year 2019-20, the Company reduced overall energy consumption by about 3.25 million Kwh which resulted in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by about 1.7 million kg in comparison to the previous financial year. Indian Hotels which owns Taj brand avoided 451.20 KT of CO2 emissions last year, which is equivalent to taking 1,51,410 cars off the road.
Sourcing of green power for IHCL increased
Hotels normally consume more energy than any other commercial buildings as power is needed for cooling, heating, cooking, etc. So, sourcing power from renewable sources is another way for the hotels to become ‘environment friendly.’ For example, Indian Hotels’ renewable energy proportion has improved to 25% from 7% in the past four years. IHCL hotels together used 356.94 Million MJ from renewable energy sources both through Green Power Agreements with electricity providers as well as onsite and offsite generation including wind farms and solar panels in FY 2019-20.
Ethos of ‘Responsible Luxury’
ITC Group of hotels have gone one step ahead to reaffirm their commitment to the ethos of ‘Responsible Luxury’ and all their premium luxury hotels are Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum certified. In 2004, the ITC Green Centre at Gurugram was awarded the Platinum Green Building rating by USGBCLEED (US Green Building Council – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), making it the largest Platinum rated building in the world at that point in time. ITC Grand Chola, the 600-key super-premium luxury hotel in Chennai, is amongst the world’s largest LEED® Platinum certified green hotels, besides holding a 5-Star rating from the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Council.
Energy saving is cost effective too
Several energy saving techniques adopted by the luxury hotels have also helped them to bring down the energy cost. Replacement of old chiller with energy efficient chiller; replacement of old split air conditioners with inverter based units; installation of energy efficient EC motors in ventilation fans; installation of waste heat recovery equipment; etc., are some of the commonly adopted energy saving measures by the luxury hotels.
Saving in water consumption
Some of the hotels have also paid attention towards saving in water consumption. For example, EIH has ensured optimum utilisation of water through installation of water flow optimizers in wash basin taps and installation of water efficient eco washer based WCs. Taj Connemara and Taj Coromandel have also planned water resource efficiency measures like revamping the current STP for water recycling in process, monitoring of cooling tower and operating the chiller under optimal condition. Water recycled for Indian Hotels in FY2019-20 was up 200% over 2018-19 and equivalent to 3,519 Olympic-size swimming pools!
Move beyond operational level efforts
However, most of the efforts in energy saving in Indian hotels are focused at operational level with little attention being paid to the design of the building itself. It should be noted that an integrated design approach can reduce the construction and operation cost of the hotel building considerably, provided right decisions are taken at the project inception stage itself. Further, hotels need to dedicate significant portion of their floor space for circulation, lobbies, and for back of the house services where often the principles of energy efficient design are ignored. There is lot of scope to provide these areas with natural lighting and ventilation and make them more pleasant places to work and at the same time bringing down the energy and operational cost.
Small hotels too should follow the suit
Another challenge here is the existence of a number of medium sized and small hotels in India who consider green concepts as a luxury. Making them believe that adopting energy efficient system is in their own interest is a major task in itself. Meanwhile, these hotels need to be provided with better technical expertise and financial support for the up-front investments in order to design, build, operate, and upgrade energy efficiency. The government needs to accept this as a challenge because this is the segment which will grow much faster than rest of the industry.
But the task doesn’t end here itself. More than the cost of implementing energy efficiency measures, the real and difficult task is to sustain these initiatives throughout the life of the asset. Further, there is need to bring about a behavioural change in both the staff and the guests. Unless the spark (about energy efficiency) in them is ignited it will be almost impossible to achieve the ultimate goal.