Containing Energy costs

To John Lembo, “rising energy costs,” is redundant. The director of energy for Starwood Hotels & Resorts says energy costs always rise and will continue to rise. Energy management isn't about reducing costs, he says. It's all about containing them.

Lembo imposes such limits in various ways. “My responsibility is to manage and reduce, where possible, cost and consumption of fuel, water and power in our facilities, and at the same time work to enhance the guest experience,” he says. “We never want to inconvenience the guest because we want to save.”

Two methods he uses are fuel cells and guestroom control systems. At present, Starwood has two fuel cells installed and operating, at their Sheraton Edison and Sheraton Parsippany properties in New Jersey. A third, installed and ready for start-up, is at the brand's flagship, the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in midtown Manhattan.

The fuel cell at the Sheraton New York is the first that isn't on the ground; it's on a setback on the fourth floor.

The fuel cell is 28 by 20 feet, stands 10 feet tall, and weights 87,000 pounds. A $960,000 grant form the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority paid for the installation by Pennsylvania Power & Light, the unregulated subsidiary of PPL Utility that owns and operates the unit for Starwood under a long-term, discounted contract.

The Sheraton New York fuel cell will deliver power and thermal capacity to that 1,700-room hotel only; the fuel cell will deliver less than 10 percent of the power load, but it's a start. Local utility Consolidated Edison, which has one of the highest rates in the country, will deliver the majority, Lembo says.

Starwood has committed to a fourth fuel cell installation at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, where four units delivering one megawatt of power to half the property will be added to the resort's network.

In addition, Starwood has mandated that by the end of this year, the guestrooms in all of its Westin, Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton properties be outfitted with occupancy-based guestroom energy-management systems. The chain recommends a specific kind of digital thermostat because it can be networked back to the property management system so “the front end knows when a room is sold-and when it's unsold,” Lembo says.

“We try to contain costs,” he says. “By containing or managing them, we're not always reducing them. Fuel costs go up, so the cost of electricity and natural gas goes up. What we try to do is limit the bleeding.”

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