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Boost Your Commercial Trade Ally Program While Improving Review Time and Reducing Costs

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We’ve heard utility companies discuss the importance of trade ally (TA) programs and their desire for improvement as energy efficiency programs across the board strive to meet their goals. Utility companies continue to struggle with raising cost-effectiveness to meet the ever-changing requirements and regulatory codes within the energy sector while still maintaining high-level customer satisfaction and meeting goals. Hence the challenge of remaining consistent in an industry that is constantly evolving. For example, lighting efficiency opportunities—i.e. lamp-for-lamp rebate programs—are decreasing due to product technological advancements. At the same time, advances in technology are certainly helping DSM program design and implementation with better tools and platforms, but we must also be creative with improvements to program design. Additional ways to engage trade allies are being sought as part of evolving strategies to continue to meet goals, and utility customers and TAs are looking to other, whole-building opportunities.

With this evolution, some utility companies are improving programs by shifting portions of the program load to trade allies. Most custom incentive programs require time-intensive calculations for incentives, and these calculations require time-intensive reviews by technical staff and program administrators. Beyond the resource costs, this creates a burden for TAs, who oftentimes perform these calculations.

Here’s one example where technology helps; it now affords non-techies the ability to run energy models with consistent, fast, and accurate results—encouraging trade allies to have a more active role in delivering custom incentive programs for customers. With some basic building design inputs, TAs are able to help inform customer decisions, in real-time, because they’re working directly with the building owner to evaluate system components such as HVAC, lighting and envelope measures, and life-cycle cost analysis during the critical, early design stages.

Trade allies working with customers in real-time to deliver energy modeling results

Through this approach, utility companies can reduce program costs by putting the power of energy modeling directly in the hands of trade allies. For example, one utility company is providing their TA network access to a simplified modeling tool that incorporates its standardized program protocols. This energy analysis tool estimates savings including, but not limited to, electric, gas and EUI for a variety of measures. It also estimates incentive amounts for prescriptive and custom incentive programs. Another utility company allows trade allies and customers to submit simplified energy models through their custom incentive program, saving valuable time for their trade allies and customers.

The outcomes for trade allies, and thus utility companies, are many; some of which include:

  • Trade allies are empowered to sell additional measure types, potentially increasing their project scope
  • Standardized program protocols give trade allies more confidence in their incentive offers
  • Program administrators have more consistency across calculations, so they know what they are getting and only need to verify the inputs match the projects

Allowing trade allies the opportunity to consistently compare the interactive impacts of all measures on electric consumption, electric peak, gas consumption, EUI, and incentives, utility companies will see increased impacts to help meet goals, have greater surety in incentive offers to their customers, and decrease technical review time, thus improving cost-effectiveness.

Utility companies in 15 states are implementing elements of this approach to provide demand-side management and beneficial electrification programs. Are you incorporating this approach, or have you seen others incorporate it? What are you hearing about it? Help us (and others) help others by providing your thoughts. After all, rising tides lift all ships!

Chris Baker's picture

Thank Chris for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 12, 2019 11:16 am GMT

Here’s one example where technology helps; it now affords non-techies the ability to run energy models with consistent, fast, and accurate results—encouraging trade allies to have a more active role in delivering custom incentive programs for customers.

This seems so important-- too often building out the tech alone is seen as problem solved, but it's so key to get that tech in the right hands to actually use it, and use it in an easy and understandable way, for any results to actually be seen.

Thanks for sharing-- eager to see solutions like these in practice. 

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