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InterContinental Hotel cuts energy usage with the help of ABB

A landmark hotel in Madrid is saving energy and meeting its environmental goals after equipping its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems with ABB drives and high efficiency motors. 

Through its ‘Green Engage’ sustainability programme, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) enabled its hotels and resorts to reduce energy consumption by up to 25% between 2013 and 2017. A key area of focus in energy reduction is the HVAC systems, that can use between 60 to 80% of all the energy consumed by a hotel.

With a global footprint of more than 5,500 in nearly 100 countries around the world, IHG wants to ensure it plays its part to protect the planet and have a positive impact on all of those who interact with it.

The IHG Green Engage system is a business-wide, online sustainability programme helping its hotels manage and report their use of energy, carbon, water and waste, thereby minimising overall environmental impact and utility costs. Participation in the IHG Green Engage system is a global standard for all IHG hotels and it recognises their progress through four levels. 

The programme recommends more than 200 green solutions, implementation plans and support systems to help hotels achieve their action plans and targets. InterContinental Madrid has already achieved all levels – the first one to achieve the highest savings in Europe – and it won an internal award in recognition of this.

Committed to sustainability

Located on the Paseo de la Castellana, the InterContinental Madrid hotel welcomes around 100,000 guests a year including presidents, royalty, celebrities and business leaders.


The hotel has eight pump groups that serve its HVAC systems, as well as hot water supply for guest rooms, kitchens and other facilities. Although these systems were well maintained and in good condition, the hotel management was concerned that their energy efficiency levels were below current best practice. Therefore, the hotel called in ABB’s official value provider in Madrid, Exel Industrial, to carry out a detailed energy survey. The survey revealed that the hotel’s energy use was high, particularly in the existing baseplate pumps, where both the motors and the pumps were inefficient.

 “The study showed that 40% of energy could be saved by decreasing the frequency of the motor by 10%,” states Enrique Bernad Lillo , quality and financial manager at Exel Industrial.

Improved process stability and energy savings

ABB recommended that the pumping systems should be upgraded with variable speed drives (VSDs) and electric motors with the IE3 energy efficiency classification that is now mandatory for compliance with EC regulations. In 2016, a total of 13 ABB HVAC drives and 16 IE3 motors were installed in new baseplate pump groups and integrated into building management systems. Using VSDs to regulate the pumps provides the system with greater stability and considerable energy savings, as the motor speeds are now adjusted to match the precise demand at any given time.

The drives and motors also offer operational benefits that go beyond energy savings as they help to lower running noise while offering smooth starting. This reduces the stress on the pumping systems, helping to extend maintenance intervals. Overall maintenance needs are also being decreased by a longer pump life span, especially as the VSDs can eliminate the potentially harmful effects of pump cavitation, which refers to voids in liquids that implode near a metal surface and trigger intense shockwaves inside the pump.

Payback in less than two years

“Our ABB intelligent motion solutions enable energy savings of around 40%, helping IHG not only to meet, but exceed its Green Engage goals. Over a year that adds up to 445,000 kilowatt hours (kWh), cutting the hotel’s annual energy bill by more than £28,000 to deliver a projected return on investment in less than two years,” said Morton Wierod, president of ABB’s motion business. “This is a great example of how our variable speed drives, combined with our high efficiency motors are providing the most affordable, effective and sustainable means of saving energy and optimising operations for our customers.”

IHG works in partnership with its hotels to help them achieve carbon reductions and, in 2019, InterContinental Madrid will continue to work towards further reductions and share best practices to help inspire other hotels in the group.  

As a result of IHG’s Green Engage programme, the hotel’s carbon footprint has been cut by 253 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year. If similar energy savings could be replicated at just one in four of the world’s estimated 187,000 hotels (according to STR Global), global CO2 emissions could be reduced by nearly 12 million tons a year – similar to shutting down three coal-fired power plants.

Research published by the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) shows that the hotel industry currently accounts for one percent of all global emissions. This figure will increase as tourism continues to boom, with the total number of hotel rooms worldwide set to grow from 17.5 million to over 25 million by 2050. The hotel industry regards sustainability as one of its main challenges, especially as an increasing proportion of guests are millennials who rate green credentials as a critical factor when booking travel.


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