17 December 2007

Installing renewable energy is economically viable for tourist accommodation despite being considered too expensive and inefficient, according to the first Australian study of renewable energy in tourism accommodation.

The UQ study shows that the performance and economics of renewable energy is not consistent with poor perceptions of the technology.

The survey canvassed 150 regional Queensland tourism operators and 350 tourists mostly from Queensland and South Australia.

Tourism operators and tourists were asked about their attitudes to renewable energy such as wind and solar power in tourist accommodation.

UQ PhD graduate Gordon Dalton, who conducted the survey, found 70 percent of tourism operators were interested in adopting renewable energy although they were worried about setup costs, reliability and efficiency.

About 70 percent of tourists said they would change their energy consumption habits such as turning off lights and turning down airconditioners while on holiday.

Most tourists, 90 percent of whom were Australian, said they would even tolerate a blackout on holidays as a result of renewable energy failure.

Dr Dalton found 50 percent of tourists were willing to pay at least five percent more to stay at a hotel with renewable energy but the other half, were not willing to pay any more.

“Tourists are in favour of renewable energy, they want their hotels to have renewable energy, they’re willing to accommodate its inconveniences and are willing to adapt to some extent,” Dr Dalton said.

“There needs to be a lot of marketing and a lot of tests to demonstrate that this technology is viable.”

He found most types of renewable energy installations near a hotel were visually acceptable, with the exception of some wind turbines.

Tourist operators thought that governments should be advertising and promoting renewable energy more and that government rebate schemes only applied to domestic applications.

He included three case studies where renewable energy was used in a large hotel, bed and breakfast and in an eco-lodge resort.

His analysis showed that wind turbine energy was more economical by a factor of 10 compared to solar energy with set up costs recouped in five years for wind and in 10 years for solar.

“Wind seems to be a political hotcake that no one really seems willing to address and as a result doesn’t seem to be promoted,” he said.

“It’s big in Europe, but micro generation wind, where a single turbine provides power for an individual unit, isn’t being promoted in Australia whatsoever.

Dr Dalton said he did this study because he was interested in renewable energy and he had wanted to mix environmental studies with his undergraduate electronics degree.

“When I searched for PhD projects, the Civil and Environmental Engineering School in the University of Queensland, offered me a very attractive one which involved an investigation of renewable energy for tourism.”

Dr Dalton, who was supervised by Dr Tom Baldock, was funded by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre for two years before receiving a UQ Confirmation Scholarship.

Dr Dalton, originally from Ireland, is also a qualified engineer and dentist.

MEDIA: Mr Dalton (gordondalton@hotmail.com) or Miguel Holland at UQ Communications (3365 2619)