How to reduce energy usage in hotels

Cutting energy and carbon use in hotels

This post looks at hotels, how they use energy and what the industry is doing to cut energy use and emissions.

The hospitality industry is big. Globally, it generates revenue of over $500 billion and is a huge employer of permanent and temporary staff. Hotels are often located in areas of natural beauty and have an impact on their local environment.

It takes a lot of energy to run a hotel.

The largest use is normally electricity. Gas is used for cooking and then diesel for backup generators.

The energy intensity of hotels varies around the globe, as different seasonal weather profiles require different cooling needs. In summary, however, a hotel that uses between 200 – 300 kWh/m2 appears to be doing well, while the norm for one that is average or poor is over 500-600 kWh/m2.

Architecturally, hotels bring together three very different types of spaces:

  1. Guest rooms: Guests stay in bedrooms, with attached bathrooms and often large expanses of windows. They can control the temperature and lighting in their rooms and use small appliances provided by the hotel or that they bring with them.
  2. Common areas: These include the reception, lounges, meeting rooms, swimming pools, gyms, saunas and similar areas. They are usually large spaces and lose energy to the environment around them.
  3. Service areas: These areas such as kitchens, laundries and offices where there is equipment, specialist air handling and ventilation equipment and computers and office equipment.

This means that you have more options in each area to reduce energy usage and the challenge is to select a mix of measures that you can implement within the constraints of the hotel.

Energy costs may be insignificant – but still large

In a typical hotel, the costs of energy may be only 4-6% of the operating costs. It might be a much smaller fraction of overall revenue.

But it can still be the second largest operating cost – and a line item where any saving goes straight to the bottom line.

How can you start to understand how your hotel uses energy?

Hotels, like most organisations, focus on energy costs on the bill. The problem is that knowing how much energy you use in total is of little use when trying to work out where you use it in the hotel itself.

This is because there is rarely any metering that is in place apart from the main billing meter.

There are, however, studies that shows how energy typically is used in hotels. For example, lighting can be 12-20% of the total load. Domestic hot water can use up to 15%. If there are chillers that are metered, the cooling energy requirements can be worked out quite accurately.

Let’s say you have all this data – then what?

Research suggests that most hotels are actually quite poor at managing energy efficiency over time. They are most efficient when initially commissioned, and do well after a major retrofit. Over time, however, performance starts to fall, which is inevitable without some kind of management system in place.

The other thing is that the largest driver of hotel energy consumption is something that you have little control over – the weather. Electricity consumption in particular correlates well with outside air temperature.

So, what does that leave you with as an option to control? Well there are the guest rooms and common areas where you could control temperatures. But you have customers there – and keeping them comfortable is much more important than saving a little bit on energy costs.

Where hotels are doing their bit is using labels to try and get their customers to help them save energy, for example by putting labels in bathrooms asking people to reuse towels if they can.

How do you tell how well a hotel is performing?

Enter what seems like a seriously cool online hotel footprinting tool.

The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and Greenview have released a free online tool based on data from the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking study.

The image below is a screenshot of the tool for the UK. It reports metrics based on 6 key measures:

  • HCMI Rooms Footprint Per Occupied Room (kgCO2e)
  • Hotel Carbon Footprint Per Room (kgCO2e)
  • Hotel Energy Usage Per Occupied Room (kWh)
  • Hotel Energy Usage Per Square Meter (kWh)
  • Hotel Energy Usage Per Square Foot (kWh)
  • HCMI Meetings Footprint Per SQM-HR (kgCO2e)

That’s a fair number of metrics.

From a combination of studies over the last 20 years, it seems that energy usage per square meter close to 200 kWh/m2 represents a very efficient hotel.

400 – 500 kWh/m2 is the mid-range performance while 600 kWh/m2 and above is an inefficient hotel or one with very high energy requirements resulting from the kit is has in the building or the climate in the area where it was built.

Measuring the energy used in hotels

The hospitality industry spends over $7billion on energy every year. So it’s worth putting in place systems to measure and manage this cost.

HCMI stands for the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, developed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), ITP and KPMG.

The resources for HCMI can be downloaded here

Another method of measurement is the EarthCheck Certified program, which appears popular in Australia.

In the US, Energy Star have a benchmarking fact sheet. Although the Energy Star programme may be under threat under the current US administration.

Technology in hotels

Energy use could be cut dramatically by introducing new technology into hotels.

For example, Zen Technologies is offering technologies such as smart thermostats, motor controls, LED lighting and ozone water treatments.

Zen claim that there are savings of 30-40% of utility costs based on such technology.

Other technologies include:

  • Laundry units that use less water
  • Low power Organic LED (OLED) TVs
  • Keycard activated lighting
  • Touchpad controls
  • Software to schedule shifts more efficiently

LED lights can deliver savings of between 50 – 80% according to providers.

On the generation side, you have solutions like an industrial fuel cell at the Radisson Blu in Germany. Supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure through a programme called the “National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Innovation Program”, the fuel cell will supply 3 GWh of electricity and 2 GWh of heat, removing the need for energy from the power grid for the hotel.

Taking action to cut energy and carbon

The tourism partnership has a useful guide on how hotels can go green.

The main areas to focus on are energy use, water use and waste.

This snapshot from the guide is a useful summary.

The areas where you can look to achieve savings include:

  • Heating
  • Lighting
  • Hot Water
  • Air conditioning
  • Refrigeration
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Laundry equipment
  • Swimming pools
  • Building envelope

Typically the energy required to condition spaces, heating or cooling large areas is the largest energy consuming activity, followed by domestic hot water. A rough breakdown could be as follows:

  • Space conditioning: 70-75%
  • Domestic hot water: 15%
  • Lighting: 12-18% and up to 40%
  • Catering: 15%

Lot cost / no cost tips from providers include turning down temperatures, installing energy efficient appliances, defrosting and cleaning behind fridges and freezers, using low energy lightbulbs, and having occupancy sensors.

It is also important to make sure that building energy management systems are commissioned correctly and are responding in the right way to sensors and settings. It is surprising how often systems are heating and cooling the same space at the same time.

In a best practice guide from Hotel Energy Solutions, the authors suggest an order in which to approach how to integrate energy efficiency in hotels:

  1. Evaluation: assess where you are and benchmark
  2. Organisation and behavioural solutions: involve staff and guests for long term change, with information leaflets and training.
  3. Technical solutions: These include reducing the energy needs through modifying the building, installing more efficient equipment and moving to renewables

These are 18 hotel case studies in this document and they provide useful tips and ideas to anyone looking at the options for energy efficiency measures in a particular hotel.

What can you achieve in practice?

The Ritz-Carlton saved over $11 million in energy costs and reduced energy consumption by 13% over three years. They did this by assessing 32 North American hotels, identifying 790 energy conservation measures (ECMs) and implementing 433.

Hotel Rafayel, a 5 star hotel in Battersea saved over £18,000 by installing LEDs and refrigeration control devices.

In India, the Godrej Bhavan office building invested $99,000 in energy efficiency retrofits, reducing energy use by over 11% the following year.

One aspect of this case study that should be followed by more business case modellers is that the team at Godrej modelled paybacks based on three scenarios:

  • 4.7 years under an actual bill scenario
  • 8.9 years under a fixed tariff scenario
  • 9.6 years under an escalating tariff scenario

This approach gives you a greater insight into possible outcomes and what happens when you spend money on energy efficiency measures – helping you spend money wisely.

In 2011, this building became the first one in Mumbai to achieve LEED gold certification.

In North Carolina, the Proximity hotel spent less than $7,000 on sustainability improvements during construction but saved $2,000 a month just through HVAC system monitoring controls. A detailed case study for this hotel is included here.


The hospitality industry uses a lot of energy but also has a lot of options when it comes to reducing the amount of energy it uses.

Unlike some other businesses, the way in which customers behave has a huge impact on hotel energy use.

You need to do things to Influence and motivate customers to make the right choices, such as reusing towels and turning lights off. You also need to make it easier for them to understand and control temperatures.

The hotel industry is also making efforts to make it easier for hotels to benchmark where they are and what they can do to make a difference.

And, according to the Carbon Trust, hotels could cut costs by 20% quite easily at little cost. So why wouldn’t you look at this if you aren’t doing so already?

Also, you might want to check out the UK’s first hotel energy conference, organised by Vilnis Vesma and the hospitality industry.

Cyber security for commercial firms

Are you being hacked right now? 

Your internet connected devices, including smart energy systems, could be spying on you right now, or be controlled by others carrying out attacks around the globe.

Internet security became headline news in 2016 with reports of Russian involvement in the leaking of emails from the Democratic party during the US Presidential elections.

Just in the last 24 hours (16th March 2017), there are 5 pages of news results on google news for the search term “cyber attack”.

These include:

  • An attack on the Abta travel website affecting 43,000 individuals
  • Stolen pictures of Emma Watson
  • Russian spies charged over a hack on Yahoo affecting at least 500 million users
  • A North Korean hack on Poland’s biggest bank lobbying group ZBP
  • An hack on Licking County’s system where the attackers demanded a ransom of $30,000
  • An attack on Amnesty International and UNICEF’s twitter accounts among others in support of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan

In 2007, an attack on Estonia’s internet system was blamed on Russia as an act of cyberwar.

In Wales, firms have paid ransoms amounting to thousands of pounds to get access to their own data.

In these ransomware attacks, what happens is that an email is sent to employees containing a link to ransomware software. The software then encrypts everything on the company’s network. When it is done, a ransom demand pops up.

Ransomware attackers now have guides in different languages, customer service and support teams to make it easier for you to pay ransoms. The ransoms are typically paid in bitcoins, a virtually untraceable online currency.

The cost of cybercrime in the UK could be as high as £27 billion. In the US, the FBI said that ransomware attacks totalled $209 million in the first three months of 2016, up from $24 million for all of 2015, an increase of over  2,500% for the quarter.

In September 2016, Bruce Schneier, an expert on cyber security, wrote that it was possible that a large nation state like China or Russia was testing how far it could hack into the companies that run critical parts of the internet.

If you want to kill the internet or a part of it, the best way is to launch a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. This method pushes so much data at sites that they are overwhelmed and stop operating.

The attackers typically take over home computers that they have infected and use them to launch the attack.

Again, in September 2016, an attack on Dyn, an internet infrastructure company that supports dozens of major websites was launched.

What made this attack different is that the attackers used internet connected devices such as webcameras and digital video recorders. This was the first use of millions of everyday devices rather than computers to launch such an attack, turning them into an army of “botnets”.

As companies use increasing numbers of internet connected printers, phones, energy meters and control devices in their businesses, the possibility that these devices can be used to gain access to your systems or be used in a DDoS attack increases exponentially.

It is very easy to launch an attack. The software is free to download. The Dyn attack was a system called Mirai, the source code is free to access and more attackers have built the code into their software. Or you can hire groups to carry out the work for you.

If you connect a GSM router to the internet with SSH capability and monitor its traffic logs, it is likely that you will notice probing attacks trying password combinations from servers that are located in China very quickly.

According to the quarterly Verisign DDoS trends report, attacks increased by 63% in Q4 2016 over the same period in 2015.

Verisign DDoS trends report
Verisign DDoS trend report Q4 2016

49% of attacks target IT services, cloud, and SAAS companies. 32% target the public sector and 7% of attacks target financial services companies.

Why is this relevant in the energy industry? Because the feeling is that the makers of consumer devices don’t really care about internet security.

But, when the devices you are connecting to your company turn the lights on and off in a building, or the power to an MRI scanner, or an operating theatre, then making sure they can’t be attacked needs to be one of your top concerns.

In the UK, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was set up last year to improve the UK’s cyber security and cyber reliance.

This blog post by Ian Levy sets out what the NCSC is planning to do about an Active Cyber Defence (ACD) programme. Ideas include:

  • Make it harder to hijack UK machines
  • Make email harder to spoof
  • Get hosting providers to take down offending sites
  • Figure out how to help people not access bad sites
  • Create better software, better government, encourage innovation
  • Help owners and operators of critical national infrastructure

Finally… and I quote

“We’re still going to do things to demotivate our adversaries in ways that only GCHQ can do”

So… GCHQ is at cyber war…

Cyber-security and the impact for businesses and what they do is not going to go away anytime soon.

Why does it matter if all the ice melts anyway?

The Larsen C Ice Shelf. Source: BBC from NASA

Scientists say that the effect of climate change will be most seen in the polar regions. The ice will melt, sea levels will rise and temperatures will increase.

A number of ice shelves have cracked or become much smaller over the last few decades. A crack in the Larsen C ice shelf, shown above, will create a giant iceberg in the Antarctic when it breaks.

Water levels could rise by 40cm to 80cm, with a central estimate of 60cm by 2100, according to the IPCC.

A small rise in sea levels can have a big impact on coastal areas. Salt water can cause erosion, flooding, contaminate drinking water and soil and destroy habitats.

The ice also helps keep our planet cool. All that white ice reflects back 80% of the sun’s energy that falls on it.

It also takes 81 times as much energy to melt ice as it does to raise the temperature of the same amount of water by one degree.

So, once the ice is all gone, there is nothing stopping the sun from heating up the dark oceans.

All that extra heat, without the cooling ice, means drought in continental areas and a loss of food production, leading to famine in parts of the world least able to cope.

To return to pre-industrial temperatures, all that ice needs to freeze again, which means the heat in the water needs to be taken out first – adding to the heat in the atmosphere.

Warmer oceans occupying more volume mean that storms are going to be bigger and more powerful.

Hurricanes, cyclones and tsunamis will be harsher, more violent and reach further inland, washing away everything in their path.

Hundreds of millions of people will need to move, leaving their homes and moving inland and uphill.

Low lying islands will be submerged entirely.

So, the problem is that a small change in the polar climate – and the melting of the ice could have a devastating impact on the rest of the world, well beyond just the increase in sea levels.

6 charts every analyst needs to know

Sketchnote showing 6 charts every analyst needs to know
6 charts every analyst needs to know

If you are interested in charts, there are three books that should go on your reading list.

These 6 charts will help you structure the way in which you interact with data – and help you get insights in a systematic way.

1. Time Series

Much of the data you will analyse will have an order in which it was collected.

The Time Series chart is the way in which you get a first look at the data.

A simple line chart will tell you how something is changing over time. Is it:

  • Going up?
  • Going down?
  • Remaining constant?
  • Fluctuating?

This chart is the one you use when you want to talk about trends and patterns.

2. Histogram

A histogram tells you how frequently a value appears within a range.

This is the basis of the well-known “bell curve”.

In any data set, a large number of values will be close to the average.

A small number will be outliers at the lower end or the upper end of the distribution.

A histogram helps you understand the shape of the data by asking questions like:

  • Does it look normal?
  • Is it skewed in some way?
  • Are any values isolated?
  • Are there odd peaks?
  • Does it fall off like a cliff?

The shape of the distribution tells you a lot what could be happening.

In energy data, a peak at the wrong time could alert you to equipment being left on.

A well-controlled system might have a sharp rise at exactly the time all your equipment is switched on.

3. Pareto chart

A Pareto chart is the basis of the “80:20” rule that says that (roughly) 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

If you order the causes from largest to smallest, and draw a line that shows you the cumulative percentage, you will be able to quickly identify the factors that matter.

You can then focus on fixing the problems caused by these factors, and that will have the most impact on your operations.

For example, if you identify three pieces of faulty kit that uses most of your power and repair or replace them, you will have more impact than carrying out 20 maintenance jobs that have a small impact.

The Pareto chart helps you focus and direct your efforts on the things that really matter.

4. Scatter plot

A scatter plot shows you the relationship between two factors. Are they linked, or is there no connection between them?

The main purpose of a scatter chart is to help you understand the relationship between cause and effect.

For example, the temperature outside affects some organisations more than others.

If you have a commercial building, a cold day will probably result in you increasing your energy usage for heating.

A factory on the other hand, where most of the energy is used by process equipment may not be dependent on the weather at all.

A scatter plot will help you to identify the relationship between factors and make sure that you draw the right ideas about cause and effect.

5. Rank chart

A pie chart is almost always the wrong thing to use to show data. Instead, a rank chart gives you much more insight.

A rank chart is a bar graph, sorted so that the largest item is on the top and the smallest at the bottom.

You can draw attention to the item you want to show by highlighting it in a different colour.

This helps you show the relationship between items or between one item and the rest.

This means you can say things like:

  • Things are about the same
  • One thing is more or less than the others

6. Control chart

The control chart is a little used chart, but probably one of the most useful.

A control chart is created by adding two lines around a time series or run chart.

These lines are calculated by the amount of relative movement in the data, worked out using standard deviations or a similar method.

The purpose of the lines is to tell you when one of changes in value is statistically significant.

Why does this matter?

J.P Morgan, the famous American financier, was once asked what he thought the stock market would do today.

His answer – “It will fluctuate”.

Values go up and down. Too many people think they have to explain every variation, but this is hardly ever useful.

The thing you need to figure out is which bits of the series is noise, where values are simply fluctuating like they did in the past and will do in the future, and which bits are signal – indicatnig something different is happening.

The control chart gives you a way to do that.

When the line chart goes above or below one of the control lines, something significant has happened.

For example, in a manufacturing process, perhaps something was moved unexpectedly, or a fault occurred and the power went off.

A control chart lets you only act when you need to – and lets the “voice of the process” tell you when something is happening that is unusual and needs to be looked at in more detail.


These charts can be used in the following ways:

  1. Time series charts to understand the trends in the data.
  2. Histograms to understand the shape of the data – is it normal or is something odd going on?
  3. Pareto charts to focus on the things that matter.
  4. Scatter plots to connect cause and effect.
  5. Rank charts to compare items with others.
  6. Control charts so you can take action only when something significant happens.

There are more references in the books mentioned at the start of this post, but mastering these 6 charts is a first step towards carrying out good data analysis.

Practical home and business battery storage – podcast notes

Sketchnote on practical home and business battery storage
Practical home and business battery storage – podcast notes

Battery storage systems are one of the most anticipated technologies in the energy market at the moment. But will they save you money and how do you put together a business case?

These are my notes from a podcast by Barry Cinnamon of Cinnamon Solar from May 2016, along with some additional research and comments. The whole podcast is well worth listening to and you can find it here.

First, what do we mean by practical? A practical system has to first be affordable, and second be useful. Above all, this means it must save you money.

In the United States, there are around 450 battery storage systems in homes and around 5000 commercial installations. Germany, on the other hand, has over 25,000 installed systems.

Policy makes a difference when it comes to battery storage

Energy storage systems are seen as a crucial part of the energy transition happening in Germany (Energiewende).

There are already more than one half million solar installations with a capacity of 40 GW in the country.

It makes sense to add battery storage systems to these installations so you can squeeze the most energy out of them.

Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), forecasts that 50,000 battery solutions could be installed each year by 2020.

Battery storage will not solve all your problems

Batteries are not a good choice for backup power for a few hours to a few days.

To provide a full supply to a normal house you need a big battery system. It’s much larger than the normal capacity of a grid connected wire.

You also need additional circuitry, permits and contractors to carry out the work.

The system will struggle to give you continuous power for a long time, especially if you lose power for days.

It’s much easier and cheaper to just buy a generator for backup power, but it’s obviously more polluting.

The main opportunity lies in energy arbitrage

People are very excited about battery storage because it will help you store energy where it is cheap and use it when it is more expensive.

But is this really the case?

One easy way to work out the numbers that matter is to think about the lifetime of a battery system. Using the example from the podcast:

It costs $10,000 for a 10kW battery system that has 4,000 charge / discharge cycles.

This means it has a life of around 10 – 11 years if used once a day.

The cost per day of the system is therefore $10,000 / 4,000 = $2.5 per day.

If the system runs for 1 hour and generates 10 kWh of energy, the cost per kWh is $2.5 / 10 = 25 cents per kWh.

Let’s say the cost of electricity from the grid during the day is 50 cents during the day and 15 cents during the night.

So, if you were able to charge the battery at night and then use it to offset expensive power during the day, you have just saved 50 – 15 = 35 cents.

At the same time, putting in the battery system has cost you 25 cents. So, your saving is 35 – 25 = 10 cents.

There is a saving, but it’s marginal and you need to get everything right.

What happens when you put a battery storage system into a solar PV installation?

This does not automatically make you money – unfortunately…

If the saving from your solar generation is less than 25 c/kWh, then you will lose money by adding a battery system that costs 25 c/kWh into your installation.

This excludes any rebates or subsidies that apply, and just looks at a straight business case.

How can you make the business case work in the UK?

The secret is getting your stack of benefits right in addition to simple storage arbitrage?

In the UK, successful projects have used many of these schemes and opportunities:

  • Renewable energy direct time shift
  • Peak load time shift
  • Extra electrical capacity
  • Transmission congestion relief
  • Relief from the capex needed for network upgrades
  • Frequency Regulation
  • Voltage regulation.

In Q3, 2016, National Grid bought around 200 MW of frequency response services, mainly through battery systems. Their balancing services page is a good place to start if you want more information.

Summary and conclusion

In summary – you can make money by putting in batteries, but it’s not going to be as easy as you hoped.

It’s important to understand the different ways in which the cost of power stacks up in your country and what this means for the savings you can make.

For the UK in particular, schemes change all the time. That means you cannot guarantee your savings and need to create a business case can handle this.

One way is to introduce probabilities into your model and work out the “expected value”, and “confidence level” of the schemes.

Doing this means you can say that you are 95% confident of achieving a saving of X.

This can help you build an overall business case so you know how much you could make.

The next challenge is getting your funders to sign off on the project…



How sustainable is your organization and how can you tell?

Sketchnote showing how sustainable is your company
How sustainable is your company?

Are you an organisation that needs to report on its environmental and social performance? And is this exercise simply another regulatory burden or does it help you succeed in the marketplace?

This post looks at the state of sustainability reporting in the world and what needs to be done to make sure that the value created by sustainable companies is fully recognized by investors and financial markets.

Assessments of corporate sustainability have been around for decades. RobecoSAM, a leading investment specialist, questions over 3,400 companies every year on the economic, environmental and social factors that contribute to their success.

The Dow Jones sustainability indices are based on RobecoSAM’s methodology. So, how well does the sustainable index do when compared to the rest of the market?

Not that well, it turns out. Since 2012 the S&P 500 index is up 85% while the Dow Jones sustainability world index composite is up 30%.

It might not just be about performance, but you could have gained almost 3 times as much by not worrying about sustainability.

Not everyone is interested just in financial returns.

Some organisations such as churches and environmental groups may not want to invest in anything that they see as “bad”. This might include alcohol, tobacco and guns. Some may include or exclude nuclear power depending on how good or bad they see that technology.

Some investors see a future where companies that have sustainable practices will do better than those that don’t. For example, socially responsible retailers might be expected to take market share from those that don’t demonstrate such behaviour.

Other investors might see certain sectors as being more exposed to risks from climate change. For example, they might want to avoid banks that hold stranded coal plants or insurers that have flood risk liabilities.

Still other investors may simply prefer sustainable companies to non-sustainable companies as long as the returns don’t diverge too much from expected market performance.

Sustainability is increasingly mainstream

1300 organisations controlling over $59 trillion in assets have signed up to the United Nations Principles for Sustainable Investment.

Some of the largest companies in the world including Google, Walmart and Apple are taking significant steps to make their operations and supply chains more sustainable.

A crucial element of sustainable development is the use of robust sustainability reporting frameworks.

In the United Kingdom and Europe some companies and many public sector bodies have a mandatory requirement to report on the environmental and social impact of their organisations.

The legislation is designed to not be onerous, using existing systems and data collection where possible and leaving it to the discretion of the companies to choose what they include in their annual reports.

Internationally the number reporting standards is increasing

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the oldest such standard and tries to bring in a common language so organisations can communicate their economic, environmental and social impact and help stakeholders understand more about them.

The GRI standards are interrelated documents that help companies prepare a sustainability report focused on material topics in a form that follows the reporting principles set out by the GRI.

There are three main problems with existing sustainability reporting.

First, there is confusion over what is meant by sustainability. Does it cover just the carbon impact of an organisation’s operations or should include its supply chain? Should larger organisations be held to a more stringent standard?

Secondly, what are investors looking for? Not all investors are the same and is it possible for one single report to meet the needs of different types of investors?

Thirdly, the way in which metrics are calculated have methodological weaknesses. Given this, is it appropriate to compare companies on the basis of the metrics reported or do investors need to carry out more investigation?

It is worth understanding the types of investors out there in more detail

Socially responsible investors will invest in sustainable companies and exclude “bad actors” from their portfolio on principle, even if they have to accept worse returns.

Investors looking for a social return on their investment will take factors such as the community benefit of projects into account in addition to the financial return on investment.

Investors looking to avoid risk will tilt their portfolio towards companies that they feel will not be disadvantaged by the impact of climate change.

Investors looking to green their portfolio will choose, all else being equal, sustainable companies instead of non-sustainable companies.

Finally, investors looking to profit from a decarbonised economy want to select sustainable companies that they feel will outperform the market.

How should organisations appeal to these different kinds of investors?

Many ESG metrics are based on reputational measures such as feedback questionnaires or social media research. Could organisations use more operational measures that allow for better comparisons?

Most companies focus on the impact of their operations measured in terms of their carbon emissions. It may be better, however, to focus on whether products and services contribute to sustainability. In other words, is their carbon handprint bigger than their carbon footprint.

ESG metrics are almost invariably backward looking. This might mean some companies are excluded because of their history.

For example, Volkswagen is currently under pressure for its role in diesel emissions fraud. The company, however, will have to radically transform itself in order to recover from the scandal and may actually be a good choice from a sustainability point of view in the future.

It is still hard to see any clear links between the sustainability metrics collected by organisations and their success in the marketplace. Are organisations collecting the right information?

There is still much research that needs to be carried out to determine which metrics are material and will link sustainability and organisational performance.

Finally, investors may need to select metrics that are appropriate for the kind of investing philosophy that they follow. A broad approach may be less effective than a narrow one where a set of robust comparable metrics are used to evaluate similar companies.

Make sure the data is good

Effective data collection underpins good sustainability reporting. Wherever possible data needs to be based on measurements rather than assumptions, and should be verified.

To be useful, data needs to cover a long enough time frame so that patterns and trends can be identified.

Where there is missing data, as is often the case, methods used to fill gaps must be transparent and robust.

It may be necessary to normalise data before it can be compared. Once again, the method used to transform the dataset must be robust and transparent.

Finally, updating information once a year may not be sufficient for investors. It may be necessary to provide guidance and enter information sooner, for example using quarterly reporting.


In summary, as more companies commit to becoming more sustainable there will be a greater need for good quality sustainability reporting.

Investors and financial markets will pay more attention to good reports and should reward companies with greater success in the market.


The irreversible momentum of clean energy (article notes)

Sketchnote summarising points from Barack Obama's article in science titled The irreversible momentum of clean energy

The irreversible momentum of clean energy (sketchnote)How can President-elect Trump make the right policy decisions on clean energy? An article by a sitting President may help.

President Obama is thought to be the first sitting US president to author an article in the high profile peer reviewed journal Science.

In the article, President Obama argues that the global momentum towards taking action on climate change is now irreversible.

The science is clear but opinion is still divided

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouses cause higher surface air temperatures, disrupting weather patterns and acidifying oceans.

Some policy makers and influential stakeholders still do not agree, however, and in the short term that continues to be a problem for a  number of economies, not least the United States.

Climate change policy could slow down or be reversed under a new administration if staffed by climate change skeptics.

This is not a good economic move. Taking action on climate change is good for business.

Cleaner economies benefit from increased:

  • Efficiency
  • Production
  • Innovation

The United States has grown its GDP by 10% since 2008 while emissions from the energy sector have fallen by 9.5%.

Ignoring carbon pollution, on the other hand, could result in economic damages annually of 4% of GDP, or between $340 – $690 billion lost in federal revenue every year.

This is without taking into consideration the impact of catastrophic events or the impact of climate change on economic growth.

Policies that encourage investment and innovation in clean energy are delivering results

President Obama’s administration has encouraged fuel economy, appliance standards and building standards that will cut over 10 billion tons of carbon by 2030.

Major corporations are setting challenging targets. Alcoa and General Motors are working to reduce their energy intensity by 30% and 20% respectively by 2020.

Clean energy creates jobs. 2.2 million Americans now work in clean energy, compared with 1.1 million in the fossil fuel supply chain.

The energy supply system is being transformed

Coal is being replaced by natural gas as the primary method of generation. Low cost gas is displacing coal and, despite problems with methane leakage, is a cleaner generation technology.

Plummeting renewables costs are ramping up the capital inflows into projects supporting wind, rooftop solar and utility scale solar, supported by public policy measures.

Battery technology could help squeeze even more power out of existing and new installations.

Major companies such as Google and Walmart are committing to sourcing 100% of their energy from renewable sources by as soon as 2017.

110 countries making up 75% of global emissions agreed to take action at Paris in 2016

For the first time the United States and China, along with other major economies, agreed to set out ambitious climate policies that would be transparent and accountable.

Delivering on this commitment would increase the changes of limiting temperature increases to under 2 degrees by 50%.

Countries will set national policies and companies will respond by innovating, creating new technologies, jobs and export markets for clean products and services.

Over $1bn has been committed by investors to support clean energy breakthroughs.

Countries that pull out now are going to miss out economically.

What will happen next?

A new policy direction will emerge under a new administration.

Will it be science based, building on the global consensus on the evidence for climate change and the need for action?

Or will it roll back policy and stop funding for clean energy and technology?

We will know more over the next year.

The long term trend, however, for global policy over the next few decades is unlikely to reverse as countries move to creating low carbon economies in order to reap the benefits and avoid the damages from climate change.

The Journey to Fleet Energy Efficiency

Sketchnote showing the journey to fleet energy efficiency
The Journey to Fleet Energy Efficiency

Pressure to cut transport energy emissions will only increase

Vehicle emissions make headline news, with Volkswagen pleading guilty to criminal charges in the US and agreeing to pay fines of $4.3 billion (£3.5 billion) as a result of committing vehicle emissions measurement fraud.

The company may end up paying more than $20 billion in the US alone. It still doesn’t know how much it will pay in Europe or elsewhere.

Pressure to cut transport emissions will continue to grow as a result of the Paris agreement.

The need to stop climate change will mean governments continue to use policy, regulation and the tax system to improve air quality and cut emissions, especially in large cities and metropolitan areas.

London’s congestion charge zone has been in place for nearly 14 years, raising over £2.6 billion and reducing traffic volumes by 10%.

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, wants to cut the number of cars in the capital by half.

Six city-wide clean air zones are due to be in force by 2020 in the UK in Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham, Derby and London but could be extended to another 10 cities.

The tax system in the UK already favours low emission vehicles. Tax rates are based on engine size, fuel type and carbon emissions.

The lower the emissions, the lower the rate of income tax paid by the owner or driver.

Fleet managers are in a unique position to cut costs by improving the energy efficiency of their fleet, avoiding both external charges such as taxes and congestion charging and lowering operating costs of their cars, vans and heavy goods vehicles.

Start with an audit

Many organisations still don’t have a good record of the number of vehicles they have and how they are being used.

Some of the information should be in recent ESOS audits although the data may be getting stale a year on from the compliance deadline.

You need to collect data that lets you understand how your transport energy emissions are distributed among:

  • company owned or leased cars,
  • cars where the drivers receive a cash allowance to operate a car,
  • grey fleet cars, where drivers receive mileage payments for using their cars for business use.
  • Vans
  • Heavy goods vehicles

The data you need will include vehicle details, fuel receipts and mileage logs.

If you don’t have a system to collect this information already, the data is likely to be patchy and require cleansing before being analysed.

Understand how you use transport in your organisation

How do vehicles help you carry out your company business?

Do you have a large number of staff commuting to work in central offices?

Do you have a large number of small deliveries, or a small number of large deliveries?

Do you operate a just-in-time system or a milk round?

Understanding this requires analysing the transport data you have in your organisation and have collected during the audit.

You may see patterns in how mileage is racked up. You may see where the opportunities are in reducing or eliminating mileage.

You may also start to see where the barriers are in your organisation.

Departments may not want you messing about with their journey planning and vehicle purchases.

Individuals may be concerned about how your data will affect their own positions.

In many organizations vehicles are a seen as a symbol of status, with increasing vehicle allowances as people progress upwards in the organization.

The key thing is being able to see where the opportunities might be for changes in fleet composition and usage that could lead to cost savings for the organization.

You will not be able to get leadership buy in without being able to show the cost savings that are available from increasing fleet energy efficiency.

Get the leadership team to set and commit to targets

The leaders in the organization need to see cutting transport emissions and costs as a strategic imperative, setting and committing to targets.

Marks and Spencer, for example, has a goal to improve its own efficiency by 50% by 2020.

It set a challenging target in 2007 of improving fuel efficiency in the UK and Ireland by 35% by 2015.

It nearly got there, reporting a 33% reduction in 2014/15, but where would it be without a target to aim for?

Once you have targets in place, the very next step is to set up a robust monitoring and verification system, including telematics and tracking.

Without an easy to use data collection system that can be updated quickly an energy efficiency campaign can lose momentum and start to slow down.

You need to communicate and keep people informed

Transport policy in companies can be a very sensitive issue.

The top people in the organization often have the biggest and least efficient vehicles.

Asking them to support you in reducing fleet emissions is going to be a personal issue for some of them and the people that report to them.

But cutting transport emissions is good business for the organization and will cut costs in taxes, congestion charges and expenses.

The impact needs to be managed fairly so people can see the need and reasons for changes in policy.

Fleet energy managers need to be good marketers, communicating and informing the people in their organization of how the work they are doing will impact and improve conditions for colleagues, suppliers and customers.

Get on with implementation

Make it easy for people to decide when and how to travel by putting a travel hierarchy decision tree in place. Could you do any of the following:

  • Make it easier to work remotely and from home?
  • Cut the payments you make that incentivise people to drive instead of sharing cars or using public transport?
  • Make pool cars available?
  • Improve route planning and schedule trips for when congestion is light as idling is a major source of emissions.
  • Encourage audio and video conferencing instead of travelling to meetings?

Major changes such as buying a transport monitoring system or investing in telematics will need you to pull together a business case.

Are you making sure that all the costs of transport are covered in these cases and not just the operating and fuel costs?

A full business case may include a life cycle analysis that means low emission vehicles become a more sustainable option for your business.

As you go forward, buying the right vehicles and using them more efficiently will help you transform your fleet and reduce emissions, eliminating unnecessary mileage, making the most of public transport and conferencing solutions, and cutting costs for your business.


The pressure to improve transport energy emissions will be a particular challenge for fleet managers who need to think about the carbon impact of their operations in addition to fleet purchases and journey planning.

Improved data and analytics will help make the case, guided by a clear strategy from the leadership team, with fleet managers in a position to make real and lasting cost savings for their organizations.

The Energy Glut:The politics of fatness in an overheating world – Sketchnote

Sketchnote for book The Energy Glut: The Politics of Fatness in an Overheating World. By Ian Roberts with Phil Edward. 2010.
The Energy Glut: The Politics of Fatness in an Overheating World. By Ian Roberts with Phil Edward. 2010.

How can you make the world a healthier place by taking action on climate change?

This book by Ian Roberts with Phil Edwards, “The Energy Glut”, links obesity – a health issue faced by an increasing number of countries to climate change.

These two do not seem obviously connected – surely obesity is something that people do to themselves by choosing to eat more and exercise less.

And the way to tackle obesity is to tell people that they should get better habits and train them how to eat more healthy food and exercise in gyms with all the equipment they need to keep fit.

But here lies the root cause of the problem according to the authors.

In developed countries everyone is getting fatter. Sure, there are some very thin people and some very fat people. But as a distribution, on average, populations in developed countries have a higher body mass index (BMI) now than they did a decade ago.

Why is this? Has everyone simply caught the same “bad habits”? Or is something else going on?

What is happening is that people are eating less than before on average. The problem is that they have reduced the amount of activity they do by even more than that. And the imbalance between the amount they move, and the amount they eat is stored up as fat.

So why do we move less?

Two obvious reasons are increasing amounts of TV watching and car ownership in households.

We spend a lot more time sitting and watching TV than we did before.

We also spend a lot more time in our cars.

One of the best charts in the book shows the correlation between BMI and gasoline consumption per person in 130 countries. This shows that as the amount of fuel used by individuals increases, the average BMI of the population rises.

In other words, car usage is linked to obesity.

As car usage is a major contributor to climate change, the book argues that climate change and obesity are linked.

As we make changes in our built environment to address climate change, creating car free cities and pedestrian friendly public spaces – we will tackle not just the problem of an overheating world but also population health.

Paris is leading the way, with plans to cut traffic in the capital and pedestrianize the city center and encourage low carbon transport such as electric cars.

This is not going to be easy. Transformation never is.

But there will also be opportunities for companies that see how things are moving.

For example, Jaguar Land Rover plans to build electricity vehicles in the UK if the infrastructure can be put in place. A commitment from a major player like that could make a big impact on the European market.

The book argues that cutting our dependence on fossil fuels and using cars less will lead to lower levels of obesity in populations.

But societies need to create an environment that makes walking and cycling an easier option than driving.

So… in summary, the problem of population obesity is at its heart a political problem, and needs political action to be solved – and policy measures that decarbonize transport will also help tackle obesity.

Energy Strategy for the C-Suite – article notes

Sketchnote summarizing content from the Harvard Business Review article energy strategy for the c suite
Energy Strategy for the C-Suite

How can companies use an energy strategy to unlock value for their organization? And why do so many fail to get started at all?

In their article “Energy Strategy for the C-Suite”, Andrew Winston, George Favoloro and Tim Healy look at how companies can create competitive advantage by influencing their cost structure through the choices they make about how they buy and use their energy.

Companies in sectors such as ICT, agriculture and the food industry are developing energy strategies and setting targets to cut energy and carbon in their supply chains.

Most of them, however, are doing this without an explicit framework or playbook.

The authors suggest that a systematic approach is needed.

The biggest obstacle to progress is not having a clear mandate in place. The CEO needs to lead on this.

Commitment from the top with the right resources allocated to a team is key to developing a strategy and guiding execution.

Once a team is in place, it needs to understand how the company uses energy, develop an energy and emissions reduction plan and set targets that are based on climate change science.

The team then needs to implement the plan, integrating it into operations and creating incentives for people in the company to work on energy reduction.

In particular, the people who buy energy need to work with the people who use energy to reduce risk and cost.

An important step is to record, monitor and analyse energy data. This needs to happen not just in the company’s own facilities also along the supply chain to see how it can work with suppliers and customers.

Companies need to understand their options when it comes to clean energy technology.

This includes working out which technology mix, whether generation or energy efficiency measures, will provide a least cost solution to the company, taking all costs into account.

In particular, companies need to understand how going green can increase the amount of business they do with other companies that have also committed to greening their supply chain.

A shift to local energy generation and consumption means that companies will need to engage much more with their local stakeholders and communities.

In addition, analysts are increasingly looking at how good and effective companies’ sustainability strategies are when they recommend them to investors.

Engaging employees is crucial to executing an energy strategy.

Inviting them to participate in searching for energy efficiency opportunities and communicating with them about how the company is going to meet its climate change commitments is going to cut costs and increase employee commitment to the organisation.

In summary, creating and implementing an energy strategy can unlock value for an organisation – but you have to do it the right way.