Topic 4 Renewable energies in tourism

Renewable energy sources can be used in hotels for electricity, heat or cooling generation. Solar-PV technology can be used for power generation, it will reduce the reliance on grid electricity or even at some point feed the excess to the grid. The decrease in the price of PV panels in the last few years has increased their attractiveness. Solar thermal energy is broadly used for hot water production and to a smaller extent for space heating and cooling. Solid biomass like wood pellets and wood chips can be used for space heating and hot water production.

Various renewable energy technologies which are currently mature and cost effective can be used in hotels. The cost effectiveness of the renewable energy technologies depends on the location and the availability of the energy source. Using renewable energy technology can help decrease the CO2 emissions that conventional energy sources cause. Adding to their appealing contribution to a greener environment, renewable energy technologies are subsidized in many countries.

Source: UNWTO, 2021

The following video offers an insight regarding the renewable energy that tourism can use in their daily activities:

The European Union encourages energy efficiency in tourism. The project European SETCOM was launched in 2008, co-financed by the EU programme called Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE). The programme aimed to raise awareness in energy-related topics and to encourage the use of sustainable energy in tourism across Europe. The project had 3 main objectives :

  • Raise awareness of substantial energy topics among tourism companies, local administration and tourists in the participating communities;
  • Raise awareness of “sustainable energy tourism” throughout Europe;
  • Set up energy action plans for the participating communities with realistic and clearly defined ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce GEG emissions.

The main energy consuming systems in hotels are:

  • Heating;
  • Air conditioning and ventilation;
  • Hot water production;
  • Lighting;
  • Electricity (lifts, etc.);
  • Cooking.

There are numerous factors that influence the energy consumption in hotels starting from the building (size, shape, age, etc.), hotel features, the location of the hotel, the operation. The figure hereunder shows the most influencial factors in the hotel energy consumption, what their effects are, as well as their impacts.

Factors influencing energy consumption in hotels





The bigger the building, the more energy needed.



A hotel where all is condensed in the same building property.



A new building is supposed to be better insulated than an old one.



The material used is important in terms of insulation and lightening of the building.


Technical equipment

The choice of technical (electronic?) appliances is important, as they are to be energy efficient to reduce energy consumption.


Hotel features


The higher the category, the higher the energy need (from 17.30 kwhPAR* for economy to 89.35 kwhPAR for luxury).



A hotel with only a few services and facilities will consume less energy than a hotel with a lot services and facilties.




Climate will impact the use of air condition and heating, more necessary in hot/cold areas.


Local Policies

Local energy policies impact the price and CO2 emissions, as it will determine the type of energy used: gas, electricity, nuclear, wind.



Energy management

The hotel’s energy management policy is crucial in controlling energy costs, as it will involve all the parties (staff, investors, guests) and will set up targets and best practices



Occupancy will impact the energy consumption, as more people in the building will require more energy. However, there are still spaces where energy will be required independently of the occupancy


Operational hours

A hotel runs 24h/7. However, operational hours may impact the price of energy in certain areas (cheaper in dedicated hours).


According to REST (2005), temperature regulation represents on average 69% of the energy consumption (63% for heating and hot water and 6% for air conditioning). These figures can be higher in extreme climate conditions, where temperature regulation within properties requires even more energy.

Operators can reduce energy consumption by first defining average temperature levels inside properties to avoid extreme temperatures (e.g., too hot, too cold) and find a balance between acceptable temperatures for guests and appropriate energy spending. An acceptable average is 19°C (66°F), according to various worldwide health authorities.

To a lesser extent, other important energy end-users are kitchens and “other unidentified” sources (11% each). Surprisingly, lighting/TV/radio ranks fifth in this classification (4%), followed by laundry (4%).

Energy efficiency is essential. The main benefits are:

  • Greater comfort to guests and staff in remote and off-grid locations;
  • Lower reliance on fossil fuels;
  • Simpler and less expensive primary and backup energy systems;
  • Lower maintenance requirements and operating costs.

It must be integrated into every aspect of the design and operation of the facility:

  • In buildings, equipment and appliances (passive cooling/heating features, high efficiency electrical equipment);
  • To staff and guests (education and participation).

According to estimates, hotels can manage to have energy efficiency in the below ways:

  • Energy costs: could be reduced by 10 to 40% with the use of more efficient methods of energy consumption.
  • Laundry costs: could be reduced by 10 to 30% by offering the option to reuse towels and bed linen to guests who stay more than 1 night.
  • Lighting: Incandescent light fixtures can last 8 to 10 times longer than fluorescent ones (DICK, S. 2007).

While energy costs in hotels usually represents about 6% of the annual turnover, these expenses can be decreased between 1.5 and 2.8% by introducing good energy management practices. Investing up to 6% in energy-efficient systems or technologies can lead to lowering the energy consumption by 10%.

According to Turner (2004), the effectiveness of energy management programs can be enhanced if 4 basic principles are adopted:

1.Control the costs of the energy function or service provided;

2.Control energy functions as a product cost, not as a part of manufacturing or general overhead;

3.Control and meter only the main energy functions, the roughly 20% that make up 80% of the costs;

4.Put a major effort of the energy management program into installing controls and achieving results.

Different approaches implemented for Energy Management:

  • Energy efficient lightning: 60% of the hoteliers interviewed (thanks to promotion campaigns and cost effectiveness of this measure);
  • Energy efficient equipment: 45% of the hoteliers interviewed;
  • Guest leaflets dissemination: 30% of hoteliers interviewed;
  • Modification or change of the heating source and system: commonly mentioned by Polish respondents;
  • Incorporation of renewable energy systems in the form of solar water heating and heat pumps: listed by some respondents;
  • Use of efficient equipment with quick returns on investment;
  • Communicate to the guests the “good practices” to adopt;
  • Use of renewable energy solutions.

Setting up the right plan for energy management and efficiency if crucial for hotels. But there are also other things that influence on the efficiency of hotels in the aspect of energy management.

Some data on energy consumption in hotels indicated that:

  • An efficient hotel can consume 12 time less electricity per guest-night than inefficient ones.
  • Hotel star rating and type of guest amenities affect consumption.
  • Efficient design, equipment and operations, and effective maintenance and staff participation have by far the greatest impact on performance.

Source: Hotel Energy Solutions (2011)