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Nearly all utilities rely on third-party contractors to promote and implement energy efficiency programs. These contractors, or trade allies, act as an extension of utility staff in order to promote, sell, and install energy efficiency products and services.

Many of these contractors are businesses established in the local communities that can help utilities reach more customers and spread the word about the benefits of energy efficiency upgrades. In fact, a 2014 case study showed that by partnering with an energy efficiency contractor, one utility saw 55 percent more penetration for its energy efficiency program than another utility conducting a similar program without a trade ally.

To foster this utility/contractor relationship, many utilities are finding ways to motivate successful allies through recognition programs. These recognition programs help drive project activity in order to increase energy savings. Four of the most common recognition initiatives include:

  1. Trade Allies of the Year: Utilities recognize the contractors that reach certain milestones, such as the most kWh saved, therms saved, or number of projects completed, on an annual basis.
  2. Most Improved Allies: These awards go to contractors who have worked with the utility for multiple years and have seen the most year-over-year improvement for total energy savings, kWh saved, therms saved, or number of projects completed.
  3. Newcomer of the Year: New contractors often take time to ramp up, but a newcomer award helps recognize the success of the newest allies that have seen progress in the first 12 months of a program.
  4. Program Milestones: Awards don’t have to be limited to once a year. To provide continuous recognition, some utilities award their contractors whenever they reach a certain level of energy savings or complete a certain number of projects.

A successful contractor recognition program will grow with the addition of new trade allies. A utility may start with annual awards or consider implementing milestone recognitions depending on their current level of contractor engagement. As more contractors are involved with the program, implementing more awards or recognition initiatives will likely make sense. In addition, each of the initiatives can stand on their own or be combined into a comprehensive recognition program.

Plus these recognition programs don’t need to be a major utility expense. The awards can be as simple as a plaque, photo opportunity, and mention in the utility newsletter. Some utilities also treat the contractor’s sales team to lunch or provide branded gifts to recognize the individuals behind the energy efficiency successes.

Through our energy efficiency program delivery services, Leidos helps utilities manage all aspects of their energy efficiency programs – including contractor recognition and engagement. Learn more about our energy efficiency expertise here.


Steve Klemm is the marketing director for an award-winning energy efficiency program in Illinois that serves residential, commercial, and industrial customers. In his role, Steve focuses on delivering effective marketing strategies through the use of innovative concepts, consistent branding, and impactful engagement tactics across both traditional and digital channels. His business acumen and prior experience as a small business owner provides valuable insight when developing strategic direction for program initiatives. Steve earned an MBA from Bradley University and B.S. in finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.