Why is transformation/disruption required ?

Standard sustainability practices in the hospitality industry are presently geared toward subtile savings on the consumption side. Few initiatives exist to lower carbon footprint on the power generation side. Those are qualitatively or quantitatively too modest to make an impact.

- A few dozens of hotel worldwide are purchasing Carbon Credits supposed to offset the carbon footprint of operations. However price of carbon credits on the unregulated free market has plummeted due to international malpractices on the supply side (down to a meaningless 3USD per ton of CO2 !!!). Therefore present offset programs are nowadays perceived as cheap green-washing with no or minimal redeeming benefits.

- A more meaningful initiative, the Nearly Zero Energy Hotels, is a "middle of the way" label supported by the European Community. It usually translates into renewables powering on-site 20% - 30% of energy needs, of one heat pump inserted into the central heating system and of additional layers of insulation, the two later actions geared at reaching the nearly passive building grade . http://www.nezeh.eu/home/index.html Up to now, 16 European hotels have joined the responsible program.

- Finally, on islands and other remote off-grid locations, we can find a number of small lodges, who instead of using diesel generators 24h/24h, opt for a mix of diesel, biomass, solar panels or wind turbines, and batteries. Some on-grid lodges are also taking the responsible direction of harvesting a fair share of energy from their ground.

Worldwide, while efforts have been moderately successful in energy savings along the last 40 years, much less than one tenth of thousandth, much less than 1 percent of 1 percent (<< 0.01%) of energy used in the hospitality industry originates from power harvested on real estates of hotels and resorts.

The participation of every industry for reduction of Greenhouse Effect Gases will be needed on-site to keep climate change in check. Already California has enacted that all new homes must be Net Zero starting from year 2020, and all businesses starting from year 2030.

Where does it REALLY matter for the planet?

It matters the most in countries where our hotels burn lots of carbon !

In developed countries as general, fossil fuels represents nowadays a decreasing portion of the electricity mix. Therefore hoteliers benefit to focus on savings and to rely on the state and utility companies to progress toward decarbonized energy.

The reasoning shall be opposite in developing countries. There, electricity needs are surging at 5%– 10% yearly. Because coal, abundant and discarded by developed countries, is nowadays so cheap, developing countries mostly rely on the construction of massive coal power plants to fill up the demand in affordable electricity for their economy and their population.

In dozens of major destinations like China, India,Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Central Europe, several African countries, electricity derives 70%-80% from coal, at a frightening environmental cost of 1 ton of CO2 per megaWatthour !!

By the same token, renewable energies appear to those states as less dependable and more expensive to produce & carry compared to coal. Due to low tax collection and unsufficient funding, national commitments to COP15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 & 22 always get postponed for the sake of economic growth and of poverty alleviation. For national rulers, cheap coal is a genuine dilemma…

Due to short term priorities, no hope as well can be expected from local communities, villages, towns or regencies (in developed countries, local & regional initiatives are at the forefront of almost all Net Zero achievements, with hundreds more achievements to come within the coming 5 years).

Equally frustrating, with public awareness just at infancy about climate change, legislative and executive bodies aren’t applying much pressure toward national utility companies. Those decade long monopolies are dragging their feet against disruptive change and against share of influence.

Bottom line : for most developing destinations, the ratio of coal in electricity production might unfortunately remain at 50%-60% for the NEXT TWO OR THREE DECADES !! (The 40%-50% balance being roughly half oil and gas, half renewables). Even worse, due to hectic construction of large coal power plants while sluggish investments in renewables don't catch-up, most developing countries actually burn annually MORE coal, not less, that they were burning 5 years ago !! Grim trend when you think about it...

This is to everyone, developers, operators and guests, to decide how to quickly get rid of heavy CO2 emissions. Let's however acknowledge that the convenient excuse of waiting for non-affluent states to firstly provide clean energy is heavily flawed, increasingly irresponsible and is causing serious damages to our planet. In a couple of years environmental groups, media and consumers might expose that keeping using dirty electricity to power luxury accomodations, plush shopping malls and high-end offices, moreover at a huge multiple in kwh per person per day, is a WORSE wrongdoing than the modest use per head for housing, public schools and hospitals needed by the local masses.

At coal-powered destinations, hotels shall consider harvesting on their ground.

Hotels are a priviledged class of estates of their own, at least in the middle-high luxury segment.

- For one, we use lots of electricity ! Consumption fluctuates with occupancy and usage patterns, however installed power often exceeds 10 000 Watt per room !! In high-end accommodation, energy consumption produces roughly 60 tons of CO2 per room per year !!

- Second, luxury guests, foreigners as well as nationals, tourists as well as businessmen, don’t belong to the average demographics of countries where hotels stand. Cheap energy is not a selection criteria and given the choice, guests would prefer clean standards. Conversely, highly carbonized energy also promise to become a highly negative factor for a growing responsible segment of the market.

- Third, high-end hotels and resorts are tiny «man-made states» of their own. Architects, developers, operators enjoy full control on the use of land, on room design, on roofing options, on heating and air-conditioning systems, on energy appliances,...

- Fourth, most luxury hotels and resorts enjoy considerable land space for gardens, planted parks and parking area (and enjoy as well the availability of large roofs).

- Fifth, the average life of a hotel in developing countries is around three decades before major/complete knock down. So, timing is perfect to act now !

Bottom line : Luxury hoteliers don't need to remain bound by the cheap coal dilemma of destinations where hotels stand. Developers, operators & architects can position resources and drive design to reach a tilting point where buildings save energy better and where on-site self-generation allows a Net Zero status.

We better start creating our own disruption. For the good of future generations, how sustainable would remain the position of major global operators and multiple-property owners, claiming to operate with the best footprint standards... thanks to some favourable energy-mix in Western Europe & Canada... while actually operating with footprints 5X heavier at other places of the SAME PLANET ?

The major concerns of intermittent generation, energy storage and dependability

Although a growing market segment is interested to act responsibly toward waste and energy consumption, guests expect the same continuous flow of electricity, heating & air-conditioning than tap water or wifi connection.

At the exception of micro-hydro, geothermal , seawater turbine or deep seawater cooling, all restricted to uncommon locations, the most prevalent renewables, wind and sun, are heavily intermittent. 

NB: Biomass is not location dependant, even grows on water, and biomass growth isn't intermittent either. However, outsourced biomass is usually not readily available in developing countries and, with photosynthesis nett efficiency at only 4% of solar irradiance, on-site biomass would require excessive land/waterfront for our industry.

The key is of course to address the issue from the onset.

1) Saving energy is the less expensive component and to reach a "nearly passive building" grade is an obvious start (super-insulation, minimised area of thermal exchange with outside for heated or AC cooled rooms, exposure to the sun in cold destinations, shading from the sun in warm destinations, LED lighting, presence sensors, training of staff, voluntary involvement of guests).

2) Maximising the offering of semi-outdoor areas, private decks, open lobby & restaurants, pools, gardens, etc… offering large spaces with no need of heating or Air Conditionning, heated by sun, cooled by natural breeze or with low-consumption fans, is a major design component as well.

3) Thermal mass/inertia of building materials is totally underrated. Sensation of heat or cold depends much more on thermal radiation emitted or absorbed by room walls, floor and ceiling than on air temperature itself. Thick concrete and natural stone return back energy with a convenient 4 to 6 hours delay (thick concrete unfortunately shows a detrimental footprint because of the high grey energy of cement production).

4) Since energy for heating and/or cooling exceeds 50% of daily consumption, storage of renewables under the form of thermal energy is a must. Intermittent wind and sun energy can easily be stored in large tanks of cold and hot water, which offer an excellent heat capacity of 4.183 Joule/kg per degree change. Even more efficient, enthalpy of fusion/solidification is clearly a route for the future. Like the ancient use of ice to save food in coolboxes in sailing boats and remote villages, there is now a large choice of organic or mineral PCMs (phase changing materials) with melting temperature covering a –20°C to +60°C range , storing sun and wind energy with an excellent enthalpy storage/restitution of 125-200 kiloJoule/kg, at 99.995% efficiency for 10 000 cycles along an expected 25 year lifespan !!! PCMs can efficiently be included straight into the central heating system and/or into the hot water supply and/or into the central climatization system, where their solidification and fusion are easy to control. They can also be simply positionned straight into the room to heat or cool the air of their own, bringing a stabilization effect of 4°C-7°C, with dozens of successful examples worldwide.

5) Subject of batteries used to be controversial because they were overly costly, were loosing nominal kiloWatthours capacity after a couple of years and because they produce hazardous waste at disposal. This situation is changing quickly since batteries for 5 000 - 10 000 cycles are now at the doorstep.  According to the World Bank, price of battery storage might drop to 0.02-0.05 USD/kWh in 2022 (against 1-2 USD/kWh for year 2010 and 0.14-0.40 USD/kWh for year 2015). A fair capacity of batteries, say 30-50% of one-day consumption stored in stand-by, will soon be an appropriate answer to smooth-up consumption peaks, to fill-up gaps from renewables, as well as to provide emergency backup for breakdowns, in Net Zero buildings.

6) Of course, a mix of two sources of intermittent renewable energies (ie: sun plus wind, or sun plus outsourced biomass, or wind plus outsourced biomass) will show larger production hours that a site 100% solar panels or 100% wind turbine. Luckily, in warm countries, sun is shining when electricity for operations and Air Conditioning is at its peak. Yet, this does not guarantee windy nights in return...

7) National grid is a useful joker card. For one, it replaces the usual diesel generator as the back-up plant. Secondly, since developing countries are pushing (albeit painfully) utility companies to purchase renewable power from entrepreneur producers, it delivers the Grail of Net Zero Redundancy.

With national grid interconnection also comes Grail v.2.0 : By slightly oversizing the harvesting infrastructure, or by just getting lucky with the weather, hoteliers can offset over the years the grey energy of hotel construction (sending back into the grid a few more electrons than borrowed on lousy days).

Having your energy and eating it too… A decisive marketing advantage toward a quickly growing base

It would be too long to cover the subject of sustainable tourism and of growing demand for Net Zero Energy accomodations.

In preliminary surveys and focus groups, many luxury guests are clearly curious of the experience, providing the claim is genuine, can be successfully documented and providing the technological breakthrough can be explained on-site. In that regard, it appears that requesting guests must be given the opportunity to visit and explore Carbon Neutrality, to take pictures and communicate about the synergy of technologies : thermal panels for hot water production, photovoltaic panels (doubling as shading for orchards, for promenade gardens or for parking lots), remotely placed wind turbines, battery room, PCM for energy storage layed inside tanks of cooling-water for AC, PCM inserted in walls, floor or ceiling of bedrooms.

Interestingly, most respondants declare to be willing to put a bit of skin into the game, for instance by allowing milder bedroom temperature at night, where the solar component vanishes .

Some guests are not interested, and given the choice, will always choose a traditional hotel. The less interested are found among the elder segment and are more frequently encountered among Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Indian, Russian and central Europe nationals.

As marketers explain, a highly growing segment, mostly millennials but not only, mostly college+ educated, mostly westerners, Japanese and other nationals, is already targeting, through active web searches of rankings, blogs and fora, the most responsible goods and services worldwide, including in the luxury segment. A growing segment of travellers is also getting concerned about the CO2 content of flights and about the energy mix of tourism destinations. For this rising public, wasting is not cool anymore ! Heavy Carbon Footprint is not a buzzword. Akin to the littering of plastic bags, to the poaching of endangered fauna or to the spilling of oil into the ocean, Heavy Carbon Footprint increasingly spells like an environmental wrongdoing.

1) Therefore, we can imagine what extreme surprise and delight a genuine zero footprint experience may offer to this discerning market! ! Energy on-site ! Self-generation ! Having your cake and eating it too !

2) It shall also grant tremendous goodwill and long term loyalty to the first hoteliers who, like the Tesla brand in automotive industry, explore the road less travelled.

3) Besides, a Net Zero hotel probably won’t need a large marketing budget past the first year. The environment conscious segment heavily correlates with early adopters and, as importantly, with active evangelists on internet (environmental web sites, tourism blogs & fora, tripadvisor & booking.com reviews, facebook, twitter, instagram, etc…). International awards and Top 50 rankings are within reach. Plus, main media and luxury media usually cover environmental breakthroughs for free…

4) Moreover, since Net Zero facilities are more difficult to achieve at tiny scale (a threshold of 15 rooms is recommended), most guests lack the chance to build a zero footprint home or to rent any. Assuming all other luxury perks get ticked high, assuming landscape & activities don't fail to match the proposition, the futuristic carbon neutral experience may prove as unique and memorable than staying at an ice hotel in Scandinavia, or than staying in a space capsule. Impossible is a destination of its own ! Impossible is the final luxury frontier, marketers say...

5) Finally, in a new economy of sharing, where rental platforms are quickly eating our market share, including in luxury due to lack of distinctiveness versus private apartments & villas, at least Net Zero hoteliers can be ensured that their efforts won't be easily cannibalized ( Airbnb won’t eat our Net Zero lunch that soon…).

What about investment costs and operational break-even ?

The opportunity is just nascent. Cumulated cost of thermal & photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, inverters, high-cycles batteries and reliable PCMs would have been prohibitive as recently as in the early 2010s.

For developments happening in years 2017-2019 to come, land apart, we can assess an extra cost of capital of +15% (Net Zero with grid interconnection) up to +30% (Net Zero off-grid) versus a conventional luxury boutique hotel of same comfort.

Payback period is 7 to 15 years depending on model and energy tariff. Payback period is therefore in the same magnitude than the hotel itself. After that time, the harvesting infrastructure actually increases hotel profits versus paying for energy. Moreover the financial benefits from unique positionning, higher appeal and occupancy, higher guest loyalty, free publicity, minimal marketing & booking costs and from steadier rates are expected to significantly shorten the payback period (down to 4-6 years ?).

Acquiring or renting additional real estate for solar panels and wind turbines may cost +30% up to +50% compared with land requirements for traditional hotels on small plots. However, in the luxury segment, availability of large natural estate offering guests the luxury of strolling in gardens, green parks and orchards is common anyway, so it might be as well be 0%. For new developments, taking the holistic option of a slightly remoter site where land is cheap and plenty, and surrounding landscape still untouched, is consistent to attract and retain nature loving guests.


The Net Zero Pledge. Let's accelerate the shift toward renewable energies. Let's decarbonize together the hospitality planet.

We have registered for the use of all the domain name www.netzeropledge.org (and .com pointing to .org).

This  site is intended to become a maiden platform to discuss, dissiminate insights, experiments and early success from all interested stakeholders: architects, engineers, operators, developers, impact investors, civil society groups and media.

In the meantime, feel free forward this link to persons who might benefit or contribute advice, with the aim of advocating Net Zero Energy developments in the hundreds of destinations where they makes sense.


Experimental showcase of the Ocean Cave Pool Villas project, 60-65 keys (located between Tanjung Aan bay & Gerupuk village – South coast of Lombok Island – Indonesia)

The showcase resort under design and construction, the first of many expected independent hotels in the open Net Zero Pledge, applies all design principles explained above.

Energy for room comfort is for Air Conditioning and ventilation only. In tropical destinations, no heating is needed other than for hot water and this can be achieved by solar thermal panels offering 80% efficiency.

Criteria of super-insulation of bedrooms from outside, criteria of minimised surface of exchange with outside, criteria of high thermal inertia of building materials are all three matched together by a radical choice : villas take the form of semi-subterranean caves dug within limestone hills (complemented by large roofed pool decks outdoors).

For this Net Zero showcase, we didn't want to take chances about the "nearly passive building" requirement. However, readers shall understand that going the "cave way" is of course not compulsary to reach nearly passive building grade.

A 30m3 prototype has been dug in limestone in early 2013 to check the material resiliency. No fracture, ceiling crumbling or wall convergence has been measured along the course of the 4 years.

Lobby & Restaurants are positioned outdoor to the ocean breeze, with low consumption fans in back-up.

Renewable energy is planned from 6 000 m2 of photovoltaic panels, doubling as a (hopefully pleasant) 10 000 m2 organic orchard, from 750 m2 of solar thermal panels for hot water production, plus two (or three) medium size wind turbines of 37.5 kVA each located 200m from the main hotel.

The site is well documented by national meteorologists for strong solar irradiance along the year, including during the rainy season (only 500mm of rain yearly), for mild Southeast winds 9 months of the year, for strong West winds 3 months of the year.

Compressors are scheduled to operate during daytime and from photovoltaic energy only. They produce freezing of PCM for storage of energy in Air Conditioning water tank (as well as freezing of ice for the cold room).

Storage of energy shall use 75-100 m3 of water tanks, plus the latent enthalpy of 35-50 m3 of PCM, plus a fair amount of batteries (probably sized to release up to 75 kW during 12 hours).

Optionally, a second type of PCM is layed under the wooden floor of bedrooms or inside wall convectors (250 kg per room).

Back-up connection from the national grid has been be granted by authorities. Reselling of energy to the grid is presently in negotiation with high chances of being granted before the resort opening.

Land acquisition has been completed. Total land for the resort and its own energy generation is 60 000m2, 70% of it for the accomodation and leisure of guests and unrelated to the Net Zero endeavour.

Wilderness and extreme sports.

Along the course of the previous 9 years, we have acquired the surrounding peninsula of 100 hectare size, Turtle Reef Nature Sanctuary, earmarked by us to remain green at 80% , to protect it for further responsible boutique hotels, for small lounges & restaurants, and for outdoor activities on water and land. The nature sanctuary includes "Gerupuk Outside" the twin most famous surfing spots of Lombok island (to remain reachable to anyone), several botanical, bird & monkey watching parks, and the provision of 10 kilometers of hilly trails for trekking, horseback & mountain bike riding.

The nature sanctuary also include 50 000m2 of natural land doubling as a rough Pitch & Put. The longer-term plan aims at offering nature lovers and adrenaline junkies an unseen dodecathlon of other outdoor extreme sports on land, water and air (cliff climbing, via ferrata, Bmx downhill, E-bike cross, enduro, freestyle & trial, reef diving, surfski/kayak, kite surfing, foiler catamarans, water strait crossings, zipping, cliff diving, paragliding).

Ocean Cave Pool Villas is targeted for opening by early 2022. Seed shareholders are two European individuals enjoying 13 and 17 years of experience in the ownership and top management of hotels and resorts

A couple of Sketchup renderings illustrate below the projected showcase.

The showcase resort under design and construction, the first of many expected hotels in the open Net Zero Pledge, is looking for external shareholders for 40% - 50% of its capital.  

You may contact us if you would like to become a shareholder in this development. Several one-bedroom-pool-villas and several two-bedroom-pool-villas, to remain in hotel operations for about 46 weeks of the year during the first 15-20 years, are getting sold freehold as 40% - 50% equity of the hospitality company (PMA) to a few individual impact investors.

We aim at a small group of inspiring persons of all ages. We foresee that this partnership will appear more fulfilling to pluri-aficionados of climate advocacy, cleantechs and disruptive technologies; of nature trekking, bird watching, scuba diving & horseback riding; of philantropy, music, art and social impact; of adrenaline sports such as climbing, surfing & fast sailing.

Overall budget of development, including ownership of freehold land, is around 45 MUSD (50% of total budget being already secured). 

While the entity shall be regarded as an operating resort with restaurant, bar, fitness, meeting room, gardens, beach facilities, energy production & storage, company shares equivalent to the ownership of a double-bedroom pool villa will probably worth 850 KUSD, while shares entitling the ownership of a single-bedroom pool villa will probably worth 450 KUSD. Payments of shares will be done along years 2019-2022 to follow capital expenditures for the hotel development.

Please feel free to contact us if you feel inspired by the NetZero endeavour and by the specifics of this small group of owners. We will mail you details of the development. More on http://www.earthccelerate.com and http://www.ocean-cave.com


Please forward to relevant friends to support the Net Zero Energy showcase with advices and to help the Net Zero Pledge grow at hundreds of other destinations worldwide.




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