Power and renewables

A look at the 2022 Trade Ally Survey Report

Building a more resilient trade ally ecosystem

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Brady McNall

Brady McNall

Director – Business Development

2022 Trade Ally Survey Report

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The 2022 Trade Ally Survey highlights trade allies’ challenges and steps utilities can take to empower their trade ally ecosystem and accelerate energy program success

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Utilities rely on trade allies to connect customers with sustainable solutions and accelerate energy program goals. So, when utilities invest in trade ally success, they bolster their own. But to do this, utilities must first understand their trade allies’ challenges.  DNV recently surveyed 305 trade allies across the US to gain deeper insights into their pain points, industry trends, and how energy programs impact their businesses. The survey respondents represent a broad cross-section of trade allies, both in business size[i] and the types of services and measures they offer.  Highlighted in this post are some of the primary challenges that surfaced. For complete details, including a comprehensive checklist of strategies for empowering trade allies, download the full 2022 Trade Ally Survey.

Trade allies struggle with sales 

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked new challenges for trade allies, including supply chain issues, project delays, budget cuts, and facility access constraints. While supply chain issues remain, most customers have returned to near-normal operations and are moving forward with projects. Despite this, 54% of small trade allies and around 35% of medium and large trade allies rate obtaining sales leads or closing new business as challenging or most challenging.

With their smaller size and budgets, small and medium trade allies typically have limited sales and marketing resources. They say their customers are often unaware of rebates and incentives associated with energy programs. And even if customers know about energy programs, many remain skeptical of benefits that seem too good to be true.

Utilities have the opportunity to bridge this gap and increase demand for trade ally services by promoting energy programs more aggressively with customers. Additionally, trade allies say they benefit from their relationships with utilities. Utilities can help trade allies maximize this relationship and close more deals by offering co-branded sales and marketing materials. 

Trade allies rely on energy programs but often find them cumbersome 

According to survey respondents, 84% consider utility energy programs important or very important to their bottom line. Forty-two percent of small trade allies and 24% of medium trade allies say utility programs drive 50% or more of their revenue.

However, many trade allies say they struggle to navigate energy programs, citing complex processes and unclear incentive requirements. Additionally, some trade allies say the time it takes to apply for incentives and rebates outweighs the financial benefits.

Utilities must remove the obstacles to increase trade ally participation in energy programs. Opportunities include streamlining the application process and expanding point-of-sale rebates. Utilities can also apply automation to help expedite approvals and rebate payments.

Trade allies need more skilled and diverse workers

Although the pandemic led to temporary or permanent staffing reductions for around 44% of trade allies, more than two-thirds have returned to pre-pandemic staffing levels, with 18% adding headcount. In fact, 54% of trade allies say they have openings in sales, while 43% have openings for field technicians.

However, filling these positions hasn’t been easy. Trade allies lament an expanding gap in trades-related candidates and an aging workforce approaching retirement. In addition, rapid innovation makes finding workers skilled in new technologies increasingly difficult.

Furthermore, while trade ally respondents prioritize diversity, they struggle with building a diverse workforce. Only 28% of respondents say their company is a certified diverse business enterprise. And just over 40% say their recruiting efforts target diverse candidates.

Utilities can help trade allies by encouraging work in the trades through scholarship and internship opportunities as well as through partnerships with community colleges and vocational training programs. They can provide training around renewable and emerging technologies. Utilities can also support diverse business practices through dedicated outreach and training. 

Download the 2022 Trade Ally Survey

Trade allies and utilities have a symbiotic relationship. When utilities empower their trade allies, everyone wins, including customers. To learn more about the challenges trade allies face—and actionable steps utilities can take to nurture a more resilient trade ally ecosystem - download the full 2022 Trade Ally Survey


[i] For the purposes of this report, we have categorized trade allies by business size and type:

• Small (1-10 employees)

• Medium (11-50 employees)

• Large (51+ employees)

Contact us:

Brady McNall

Brady McNall

Director – Business Development

2022 Trade Ally Survey Report

Download