Kempinski has become the only five-star hotel brand to successfully branch out into green energy consulting by unveiling the first renewables installation in one of its hotels - the Kempinski Hotel Ajman.
The UAE hotel now operates a solar thermal application that heats 30,000 litres of water every day, saving it more than Dh100,000 (US$27,224) a month, according to Horst Kreuter, the chief executive of Kempinski Renewable Energy (Kreen).
"With conventional solutions the upfront cost is cheap, but they end up paying for the fuel," said Mr Kreuter, who expects a payback period for the installation of about four years. The cost of heating the water has been reduced by two thirds.
Kreen is a joint venture between Kempinski, the German utility company Stadtwerke Mainz and Marshfield Energy, a company specialising on developing geothermal projects.
Founded early this year, the joint venture is still modest in size, with only five employees. But it is in negotiations to work with eight more hotels next year, including the Kempinski hotel adjacent to Dubai's Mall of the Emirates.
As Kempinski works on a franchise system, the chain has no say in the running of the hotels operating under its name, and Kreen needs to convince owners that an investment is worth making. To maximise future business, it is not limiting its work to Kempinski franchises. Large commercial buildings such as malls are also on the radar, said the chief executive.
Kreen operates by making an energy assessment of the hotel, and first looks to efficiency measures before determining which renewables source is best suited to each particular project. Solar, wind turbines and geothermal are all options.
The Ajman Kempinski can expect to save about €500,000 (Dh2.4 million) during the lifetime of the solar installation, said Mr Kreuter.
In the UAE, making a saving on renewables is difficult, as the generation of green energy is not rewarded with subsidising tariffs as in other countries. Installing solar panels on the Ajman Kempinski to generate electricity rather than to heat water would have increased, not reduced, electricity costs at the hotel, whereas a solar water heating system is commercially viable.
Hotels should take the long-term view when considering renewables applications, said Mr Kreuter, who believes that energy prices are on a rising trajectory.
In Dubai, alternative sources of energy are made more appealing by the hefty fuel surcharges the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority imposes on consumers during the summer, when the emirate is forced to buy additional quantities of natural gas to feed its power plants.