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Corporate America sees the light, embraces conservation measures

In the old days, housekeeping employees at Hilton hotels might not have given a second thought to turning on the radio or television and switching on all the room lights while cleaning for the next guest. Today, however, management takes a dim view of such practices. Hotel employees are being advised to clean as much as possible during daylight hours in order to conserve electricity.

Corporations across America are instructing their employees about the importance of energy conservation. For example, in a recent e-mail message directed to Wells Fargo bank employees, chairman and CEO Dick Kovacevich urged workers to take personal responsibility for conserving energy at each of the 5,400 branches the San Francisco-based lender operates nationwide.

Meanwhile, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Hilton Hotels Corp., an owner/operator of 450 hotels and franchiser of an additional 1,500 hotels, has even gone so far as to draft energy-conservation tips. At both corporations, the focus is on best practices to ensure a stable energy supply and to hold the line on costs.

Getting the word out

George Neeson, vice president of engineering at Hilton Hotels, said substantial increases in energy prices in markets such as Hawaii, California, New York and Chicago prompted Hilton to outline best practices for energy management and conservation. Included on Hilton's internal Web sites are energy conservation tips related to housekeeping, food service, pools, spas and saunas, HVAC, hot water and lighting.

Hilton's energy management practices paid off when it won the Energy Star award in the hotel division for a savings of $4 to $5 million on an annual basis. On a monthly basis, the statistics from 500 to 600 participating hotels revealed that the chain's total energy reduction was 43 kilowatts, the equivalent of operating 6,400 car engines at the same time.

For Wells Fargo bank, which is located in 23 states, the energy conservation program began in California. Steve Levine, vice president of property management and facility operations for Wells Fargo, said the program will move from state to state. “We put into place an energy task force to develop standards from a demand-side and supply-side perspective,” Levine said.

Some practical solutions

New energy and cost-saving ideas are being implemented in several states, including California, according to Don Dana, head of corporate properties for Wells Fargo. The company plan calls for the installation of fluorescent lighting and electrical ballasts in each of its California banks. Based on first-quarter energy prices, the company expects to realize a cost savings of $650,000 annually, or an energy cost reduction of about 8.6% per store, Dana said.

Other planned ideas include maintaining cooling system temperatures at 76 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, timed motion sensors that automatically turn out lights when a room is not in use and photo-sensing cells at more than 450 banking locations that control outside lights and automatically turn them off at daybreak.

Currently, the energy task force initiated by Wells Fargo is piecing together a packet of information to distribute to other properties in more than 20 states. That way, the other branches can learn from the lessons of California. Wells Fargo is also working with consultants from Ernst & Young's energy group to assess the company's position in the marketplace in each state as it relates to deregulation.

Corporations that operate hundreds or thousands of business locations such as Hilton and Wells Fargo are taking the necessary steps to confront an energy environment that continues to be volatile. As Dana of Wells Fargo explained, “Conservation not only saves money and prevents degradation of the environment, it helps prevent future crises. We need to be doing these things — energy crisis or not.”

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