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How can academies select the right energy brokers?

Lucia Harney-Dey has some advice for academies looking for the best deal from their energy supplier

Posted by Hannah Vickers | August 17, 2017 | HVAC & lighting

In a challenging economic climate, and as financial decision-makers across the educational sector battle against increasingly tight budgets, cutting costs and managing outgoings has become more important than ever. But, often it is difficult to understand just where savings can be made, and even more time-consuming to analyse the market and assess current energy packages in liaison with your supplier. That’s where a utility management specialist or ‘energy broker’ can help.

In today’s complex and competitive energy market, some energy brokers exist to offer schools and academies a poor deal. Ofgem has safeguards in place to try and protect those in the education sector from being mis-sold energy deals by unscrupulous salespeople; the same people who have given the term ‘energy broker’ a bad reputation. And, while these safeguards can protect you, there are also measures you can take to avoid ‘rogue’ brokers.

A qualified, diligent energy broker can add huge value to your bottom line and save you from possible hassles with your energy supplier further down the line

A qualified, diligent energy broker can add huge value to your bottom line and save you from possible hassles with your energy supplier further down the line – so it’s worth investing time to find the right energy broker for your requirements.

It’s important, when new brokers are entering the market all the time, to choose a company with experience and a proven reputation. 

They should be well established and run by a team who have expertise in the market. The organisation should come with a growing and satisfied client list, backed by testimonials.

Find out how many energy suppliers the broker is connected to and what commission they get from them. The more supplier partnerships the broker has with the ‘Big 6’ and smaller energy providers, the better, and remember that an independent broker is more likely to maximise sales instead of negotiating the best deal if they’re being paid by a supplier.

Good brokers will be signed up to the Utilities Intermediaries Association (UIA) – the main trade body for energy brokers which aims to improve the professional image of the sector. They’re also likely to be signed up to the supplier-sponsored Third Party Intermediary (TPI). TPI is a code of practice which measures the behaviour of brokers against guidelines to ensure a high standard of customer service. 

Good brokers strive to get the best deals for their clients. Visit their website to check if they claim to offer a ‘transparent’ approach. They shouldn’t hide costs and will should provide a clear breakdown of their fees separated from charges made by suppliers. They should also offer you the choice to pay a direct fee, or add a surcharge to the supplier’s charge. They will identify where you can reduce your energy or power usage and how to increase your energy efficiency, while offering a broad range of services. This suggests a good understanding of the market, and an ability to meet all of your needs.

If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, choose a broker that understands the renewables market. Make sure to look for a broker that offers a comprehensive energy audit and one that will take time to understand your business model and your energy targets. This will ensure you have a robust procurement strategy in place.

Finally, check the broker will monitor your situation even after you've signed up with a supplier so you can take advantage of market conditions. Check if they offer regular face-to-face and telephone contact. Good brokers often appoint a dedicated account manager to look after each client. 

Lucia Harney-Dey is I&C Development Director, Orchard Energy

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