As outside temperatures soar above 50 degrees in many parts of the Middle East and entertainment moves indoors, hotel establishments are once again feeling the pinch of higher energy bills.
While energy consumption within the hospitality sector is highly diversified and often difficult to break down, there is little doubt that much of it comes from lighting.
Energy-efficient lighting, therefore, is one of the most impactful and easiest ways of cutting costs. And many hotels can attest to that.
A design consideration
Sofitel The Palm Dubai, which opened in July 2013, took the opportunity to cut costs from day one by incorporating sustainable technologies into its initial design drawings. These included solar panels, motion sensors, and energy-efficient lamps.
‘One of the initiatives that we implemented was the replacement of high wattage halogen lamps with LED lamps for all lighting that is operational 24/7,’ says Rohit Salunke, director of engineering at Sofitel The Palm Dubai, part of the Accor Group.
To date, the Polynesian themed resort has saved more than one million kWh using LEDs and CFLs, equivalent to around $136,000.
‘We planned the project in a phased manner, starting with the replacement of all 24/7 lit halogen lamps in areas such as guest corridors, art works, and public toilets. In the second phase, we installed LED lamps in meeting rooms and landscaping areas,’ Salunke says. Replacements are now ongoing in the resort’s 361 guest rooms.
Less than three years’ payback
Sofitel The Palm is not an isolated case. Among the first movers in Dubai was Radisson Blu Dubai Media City. Often catering to business travellers thanks to its location, the four-star hotel replaced 95 per cent of its lights with LEDs in 2009, reducing its energy usage by 81 per cent.
More recently, the Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai Marina rolled out a multifaceted green initiative that entailed the replacement of more than 24,000 halogen lamps in its guest rooms and common areas with LED lamps from GE.
Completed in late 2014, the project is making savings of around 80 per cent and should pay for itself in just 18 months.
Over the long term, return on investment depends on the project and country. But Praveen Sharma, product general manager for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at GE Lighting, says GE’s clients are typically achieving a payback period of below three years.
‘In guest rooms, where you typically have halogen or incandescent lamps, it is possible to save up to 80 per cent against a GLS or halogen lamp. You’re also saving on air conditioning cost because you don’t have that much heat generated compared to traditional technologies such as halogen and incandescent.’
The LED trend
Meanwhile, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, one of the most stunning architectural landmarks on the Dubai skyline, aims to use LED lighting throughout the entire hotel.
More than 80 per cent of the 56-storey tower already uses LED lighting, which resulted in a 1.63 per cent year-on-year reduction in electricity consumption in 2014. Encouraged by this achievement, the hotel is working to increase LED contribution to 100 per cent in 2015.
In the neighbouring state of Qatar, the world's richest country per capita, hotels have spared no effort in upgrading their lighting systems. In 2013 alone, Wyndham Grand Regency, Crowne Plaza Doha, and the InterContinental all retrofitted parts of their establishments with LED systems from GE.
Crowne Plaza’s project was particularly challenging because the hotel was seeking exterior façade lighting that looked elegant, could lower maintenance costs and withstand extreme weather conditions.
For this requirement, the hotel used 2,400 metres of flexible LED lights that can be moulded on site to fit the shape of architectural features. Today, the system is providing energy savings of up to 40 per cent compared to the neon lights traditionally used on façades.
Outside of the Arabian Gulf region, Jordan’s Zara Investment Holding plans to enhance operational efficiency across its hotel portfolio, which includes the Mövenpick Resort and Spa Dead Sea, InterContinental Jordan, and Grand Hyatt Amman.
Several Zara hotels have already switched to energy saving LEDs in common areas, according to chairman Sabih Masri. ‘In 2014, we carried out ongoing efforts to protect the environment where we operate as well as to mitigate the risks inherent in the ballooning energy costs.’
On the other side of the region, Mövenpick Ankara in the Turkish capital city has replaced halogen lighting in its façade, gardens, and indoor swimming pool with LEDs.
Atakan Turhan, general manager at the Mövenpick Ankara, says: ‘It made a big difference as we moved from 1,000W halogens to 210W LEDs. 70W guestroom work desk lamps were replaced with 12W LEDs and 18W lamps in the fire-exit stairs were replaced with 12W LEDs.’
‘We replaced both halogen and incandescent lamps with LED lamps as LED technology offers the best energy efficiency’ adds Turhan.
Altogether, the LED retrofit projects are saving the hotel around $4,310 annually.
Not just about cost
Cost reductions are obviously a fundamental driver for hotels making the switch to energy-efficient lighting. However, the desire for recognition is also a major impetus. One of the sought-after accreditations in the hospitality sector is the Green Globe Certification, which is based on internationally accepted criteria of sustainable operation of tourism businesses.
The system is fairly straightforward: Green Globe auditors assess the sustainability performance of member hotels and provide them with third party verifications that they have met the certification criteria.
Since Green Globe standards are updated every year, businesses have to be re-certified on an annual basis, which maintains a healthy level of motivation among the hotels.
Moreover, the certification serves as an independent evaluation that ensures the hotel is performing to the highest environmental standards. This leaves a positive impression on guests and can even improve a hotel’s chances of receiving other awards, as was the case with Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
‘Green Globe has really helped us to achieve the highest quality and be awarded the Dubai Quality Award for the third time,’ says Mahmoud Sakr, the hotel’s general manager.
Mövenpick Ankara, too, came a long way by achieving the certification for the second time in 2015, having been operational for eight years.
Whether it’s the recognition, financial savings, or aesthetic improvements, Middle East hotels have plenty of reasons to make the switch to energy efficient lighting, and for the time being, this trend is here to stay.
All photos were supplied by GE Lighting except for those of Sofitel The Palm Dubai and Mövenpick Ankara, which were provided by the hotels