HOTELS: At last it seems there’s some serious traction on sustainable hotels. Hot on the heels of the new NABERS hotel tool, and the potential expansion of mandatory Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) for hotels, is some more encouraging news.

This week, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation invested $50 million for up to 15 hotels in Holiday Inn Express and IHG lifestyle hotels.

The government owned corporation is providing a $50 million equity investment into a hotel development fund to be managed by Pro-invest.

Named the Australian Hospitality Opportunity Fund II C, the investment will go towards hotels that aim for a five-star rating under the NABERS system.

This major investment signals a promising shift towards more sustainable movements in the tourism and hospitality sector.

In a smaller but no less significant development, one of the country’s largest private hotel owners, Jerry Schwartz, said on Thursday he was about to open a 13,350 panel solar farm in the Hunter Valley next door to his Crowne Plaza hotel, brewery, and conference and events centre.

This project, worth around $10 million according to the Australian Financial Review, will have a capacity of 5000 megawatts — enough to power the entire neighbouring site.

It’s all good news because hotels have notoriously been resistant to the trends making other buildings of their scale more sustainable. Between the split incentive issue that discourages owners investing in plant and equipment that will be largely enjoyed by tenants, and the sheer scale of work needed to bring such big energy consuming assets up to speed, it’s not an easy task.

In any case, industry observers say there has been quiet progress by some leading property owners.

There are a number of examples of hotel chains taking steps in the right direction on sustainability. Accor, for instance, has been installing solar arrays on the rooftops of its buildings for some years now, adding two megawatts of solar in 2016 alone.

Similarly, Intercontinental cut energy use by almost 50 per cent, and gas and water by about 30 per cent in recent years through its Green Engage program.

There’s still a long way to go

But these examples are not yet the norm in the hotel industry, which contributes around 1 per cent to total global emissions each year, according to World Tourism Organisation.

Jay Gualtieri of the environmental service provider Ausnviro told The Fifth Estate earlier this year that this slow uptake is due in part to the lack of competition in hotel ownership. He said this takes the pressure off hotel owners to compete to provide their services sustainably.

The introduction of NABERS for hotels could be just what the industry needs to drive change, particularly when coupled with a mandatory Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) program.

The CBD is currently in the final weeks of a review by the Centre for International Economics (CIE) which has found the program to be effective in promoting energy efficiency and emissions abatement in its draft assessment.

“This is just what happened in the office sector,” he said. “Without that secondary support with legislation we won’t see these tools kick off.”

At this stage there are three hotels in Australia that have received NABERS ratings, according to the NABERS’s website. These are Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour which received a 3.5 star energy and 3 star water rating, Mercure Hotel Sydney which received a 4 star energy and 3 star water rating, and Holiday Inn Express Sydney Macquarie Park which received a 4.5 star rating for both energy and water.

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  1. Tremendous article Georgia, and yes, I think the $50 million investment by CEFC can be a game changer in highlighting that sustainability isn’t just a “marketing tool”. It needs to be involved in the development process from inception through to operation, and the fact that Australia’s largest private hotel owner – Jerry Schwartz – takes this so seriously will hopefully send a strong message. NABERS is definitely a massive leap forward compared to “self-rating” schemes.

  2. This was particularly great as traction is growing in the procurement space, with corporate customers starting to ask about ratings when deciding on which hotels to book and add to their bill contracts. Promising signals all around!