Sunday, May 26, 2013

Companies share energy efficiency secrets

When hotel guests leave their room during the day, a magnetic door sensor tells the thermostat to reduce the heating or cooling. When they come back, it has the temperature return to their selected degree. The programmable thermostat is one of several energy-efficiency features installed last year at the Marriott La Jolla in La Jolla, Calif. The hotel also uses motion sensors on stairwells and vending machines to keep lighting dim when not in use.
When hotel guests leave their room during the day, a magnetic door sensor tells the thermostat to reduce the heating or cooling. When they come back, it has the temperature return to their selected degree.
The programmable thermostat is one of several energy-efficiency features installed last year at the Marriott La Jolla in La Jolla, Calif. The hotel also uses motion sensors on stairwells and vending machines to keep lighting dim when not in use.
“We save $5 million per year” on utility bills company-wide with such retrofits, says Bob Holesko, vice president of facilities at HEI Hotel & Resorts, which owns the La Jolla site and 40 others in 16 states. He says steps such as programmable thermostats pay for themselves, by lowering energy use, within three years.
His company is one of three dozen — including Best Buy, General Electric, Macy’s and Staples — that have pledged not only to cut energy use 20% by 2020 but also to share their secrets for success as part of a new federal program that released its first-year results May 22.
More than 110 partners — including schools, universities and cities, such as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle — have signed on to the voluntary Better Building Challenge, launched by President Obama in December 2011. They’ve created at least 50 projects to showcase their strategies, cut energy use per square foot more than 2.5% in the first year and lined up $1.1 billion in private funds for efficiency upgrades.
“We waste a lot of the energy we use,” says Maria Vargas, director of the program at the Department of Energy, which provides technical but no financial help to its partners. She says retrofits such as swapping out incandescent light bulbs for ultra-efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes) can cut energy use 20% to 30%, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, she says, they’re a win-win.
Unlike some aspects of Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, efficiency has garnered broad support. A bipartisan bill in Congress to improve the efficiency of appliances, buildings and corporate supply chains passed a Senate panel earlier this month on a 17-3 vote. It now moves to the Senate floor.