Power and renewables

How to build a thriving trade ally ecosystem to drive clean energy programs

How to Build a Thriving Trade Ally Ecosystem

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Susan Stefanovich

Susan Stefanovich

Senior Consultant, Program Development and Implementation

Utilities rely on a healthy partner ecosystem. See how tools like EVOLVE Partner Plus empower trade allies & contractors to accelerate clean energy programs.

A healthy partner ecosystem is vital to the success of utilities’ clean energy programs—especially since trade allies and contractors typically generate 75% of a utilities’ annual kWh savings.1 Which is why in 2018, I helped compile the DNV GL National Trade Ally Survey, which monitors trends across the trade ally community.  Here’s a snapshot of what trade allies told us:
  • 68% want training beyond what is required to maintain their licenses.
  • 75% actively or very actively promote utility energy efficiency programs.
  • 78% actively participate in utility rebate programs.
  • 80% believe that co-branded marketing materials, advertisements, websites, and sales cards will help their businesses sell more energy efficiency projects.
  • 90% rate capital constraints as a moderate-to-high barrier to customer participation.

This data reinforces the symbiotic relationship between utilities and trade allies. It also brings into focus opportunities for utilities to deliver greater value to their partners.  

Unfortunately, limited resources, time constraints, and highly manual processes hinder a utility’s ability to recruit trade allies. These same challenges can discourage trade allies from accessing the tools they need to optimize their affiliation, resulting in missed opportunities.  

In this article, I want to shine a light on how utilities can leverage EVOLVE Partner Plus, part of the EVOLVE Digital Suite, to grow their trade ally ecosystem and empower contractors and partners with streamlined, automated access to resources that help drive local economies and maximize clean energy program success.  

Scale your trade ally ecosystem  

Often, I find that a utility’s recruitment and application process is highly manual and overly reliant on high-touch workflows. It can be a tedious undertaking that requires significant time and resources for both the utility and the trade ally—and that can be off-putting to busy candidates.   

EVOLVE Partner Plus is a self-service tool that streamlines and automates the trade ally application and approval process for a friction-free experience. Partner Plus enables utilities to create customizable portals with online applications, so they can expedite approvals and get trade allies up and running quickly. This facilitates seamless ecosystem growth, so utilities can spend more time providing the support and data insights trade allies need to sell and implement clean energy projects.  

From a utility standpoint, a customizable dashboard gives you detailed views into the top performing trade allies. You can quickly see which trade allies are delivering the most kWh, how they’re doing quarter by quarter, which trade allies had the most growth, and who you’re relying on to hit your goals. This kind of insight is critical to helping utilities tier trade allies and invest additional resources on the partners delivering the most impact. 

Motivate trade allies by putting the right tools and resources at their fingertips. 

As energy programs mature, busy trade allies must work harder to reach late adopters and underfunded sectors. They need continuing education to keep on top of incentive and rebate programs and industry trends. They need support and usage insights from utilities to re-engage customers in new projects and to replace end-of-life equipment. And they need to find and access what they need quickly and in one place. Unfortunately, while many utilities have these resources, finding them can prove frustrating for trade allies.  

One of the things that I love about EVOLVE Partner Plus is that it provides an easy-to-access, searchable repository for utility marketing collateral, customer-engagement resources, active promotions, on-demand webinars, and more. Trade allies can access what they need at their convenience, including project status. If trade allies need additional help from the utility or have questions about incentives and rebates, they can get quick answers through online chat, in addition to phone and email support.  

“Partner Plus is a powerful self-service tool for our trade allies,” says Jill Rolstone, Director of C&I Programs, Consumers Energy Business Energy Efficiency Program. “It enables an instant view of all project status information and offers one-click communication with our program staff. The auto-contact feature instantly alerts them of project status updates, via text or email, and the portal houses their Trade Ally Scorecards, so each know how many incentive dollars they’ve earned this year and how close they are to earning their next bonus.”

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Grow businesses and invest in local economies 

Complex customer projects often require additional skillsets that fall outside a trade ally’s area of expertise. Increasingly, trade allies must partner with other contractors that have complimentary products, services, and skillsets to meet a customer’s needs. Thanks to robust contractor look up functionality, Partner Plus can help build these connections. This provides expanded opportunities for trade allies to co-sell solutions and drive customer projects forward.  

Additionally, rebates and incentives are a critical piece to winning projects. We’ve found that when trade allies have easy access to rebate and incentive applications, they’re more likely to leverage these valuable programs, driving down project costs, expanding opportunities, and pumping income into local economies where the work is being done. And of course, rebates and incentives are crucial for customers that have capital constraints. 

Evan Rice, Account Manager, Lighting Supply, appreciates the capabilities Partner Plus offers. “The online portal helps us make sure that applications don’t fall through the cracks. It helps keep our projects organized and allows us to check their status without having to call our outreach representative. It also allows us to see when projects are ready for payment, so we can keep our customers up to date.”  

Accelerate clean energy with EVOLVE 

The EVOLVE™ Digital Suite is truly changing the way that utilities operate, driving clean energy program success and helping utilities meet revenue and savings targets. And when it comes to building out a thriving trade ally ecosystem, I truly believe that Partner Plus is a game changer. To see how EVOLVE can help your utility achieve greater success, reach out and talk to one of our professionals


1 DNV GL (2018) ‘DNV GL NATIONAL TRADE ALLY SURVEY,’ available at: https://www.dnvgl.com/publications/knowing-our-trade-allies-and-how-they-work-116111 (accessed 9/16/2020).

Contact us:

Susan Stefanovich

Susan Stefanovich

Senior Consultant, Program Development and Implementation