Hotels in Malta have been sensitive to the energy issues especially since the revision of utility rates in 2006. When this happened hotels realised the true cost of not running an energy efficient operation. Joseph Restall, Project Leader, MHRA explained how although the rates have since been lowered, the utility consumption still represents between 5 and 10 % of the costs of operation. A good number of hotels started exploring means of increasing their efficiency and measures such as changing lighting to energy efficient bulbs have been largely introduced. Larger hotels, particularly in the 5 star sector, have also introduced other measures such as Guest Room Energy control and Building Management System control, thereby reducing further their utility consumption. He explained, “when we talk about utilities we consider electrical, water and fuel consumption as all three represent areas which consume energy and therefore offer opportunities for increasing efficiency and cost-saving.”
MS asked about the importance of energy efficiency and Mr Restall said, “There are two drivers for increasing energy efficiency. Cost-saving is critical and does not need explaining. Any energy saved is a direct bottom line profit and is a permanent gain for the operation. The second driver is hotel environmental impact. This driver is influenced by three factors. The first factor is regulatory with increasing demand being made by both local and EU legislation which demands rational use of utilities and drives lowering of emissions.”
Mr Restall continued by saying that another increasingly important factor is the pressure placed by Tour Operators and even individual tourists on the environmental impact of hotels. Some tour operators actually have environmental certification programs and it is well known that there is an increasing momentum for tourists to prefer hotels with sound environmental policies. The last factor is an actual increase in awareness by the hotels of their corporate social responsibilities which of course includes energy efficiency and reduction in pollution.
The MHRA has been at the forefront of advocating Energy Efficiency, seeing it as a benefit to hotel financial and environmental sustainability. “I had been working on an initiative which included energy benchmarking and in 2015, when oil prices fell and the demand for utility costs to be reduced where being made, MHRA decided to propose to government to fund the BEST initiative.” BEST stands for Benchmarking Energy Sustainability Targets and is a multi-thread approach to assisting hotels increase their energy efficiency with the Government funding financial awards according to the results obtained. A website portal has been developed which integrates with a software into which the hotels enter their utility data month on month.
Mr Restall explained how the software calculates specific parameters corrected for environmental values which allows different hotels within specific categories to be benchmarked. The benchmarking results determine the financial award which is in the form of funding for future energy efficiency projects. The software tool enables individual hotels to track and control their consumption, compare it to their own previous performance and also to competitive sets. Tools are included that support training, forming energy efficiency policies and also to determine both at high level and in-depth the return of investment on potential application of specific energy efficiency technology. Furthermore the website offers a product and supplier database.
When asked about if the government supported the incentive, Mr Restall stated, “The Government of Malta immediately endorsed this initiative and entered into an agreement with the MHRA to fund the initiative. A number of studies were done which established the legal and technical basis for the initiative to be set up. The initiative is being launched and run for a minimum of three years and the Government will be running it through the Energy & Water Agency within the Ministry of Energy and Water management.”
The BEST initiative is a first in the EU certainly and possibly in the world and has been received very well by major international institutions such as the WTO. The declared target of the initiative is to position Malta as the leader in Energy Efficiency in the Mediterranean and both the Government and the MHRA are vested in this target.
Local hotels will be given log-in rights and all they will have to do is enter their hotel details annually and utility consumption on a monthly basis. The software then calculates everything and the hotel user can monitor the system. The software allows hotel groups to also view the performance of their hotel portfolio both on an individual hotel basis and as a comparative set. The BEST software is a very powerful tool that will enable users to manage their energy efficiency and control how new initiatives and projects affect their performance.
The official launch will be on the 1st of March and it is expected that the take up will begin after that. Training sessions are being offered on a one-to-one basis such that hotels can fully understand and make use of the tools being provided.
The BEST Initiative has been presented to the forum of Energy Ministers in May of last year, to the WTO in September and to the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation in November. It has received high praise in al fora and there is interest by a number of countries to adopt it. We are confident that this may, in fact, be a tool that becomes internationally used to increase energy efficiency in the hotel industry and help to reduce the environmental impact of this sector.