Blog: How do you define an energy TPI?

If I was shipwrecked and only left with one book, it would be a dictionary. The Oxford English, to be precise. Hangover from my lit degree, yes – but why? […]

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By Vicky Ellis

If I was shipwrecked and only left with one book, it would be a dictionary. The Oxford English, to be precise.

Hangover from my lit degree, yes – but why?

For a start, I blimmin’ love new words. And it would be so frustrating to never know what that word floating in the back of your head means. Try it now: impuissant or nidificate*. Annoyed yet?

Words are slippery – which is probably why we’re constantly searching for meaning, to understand what things ARE.

And surprisingly enough, this also happens to be a question at the heart of what energy brokers and consultants do – what exactly is a TPI?

In comparison, it’s more straightforward to say what a supplier is: supply energy and maybe even generates it. Easy peasy.

But pinning down what counts as a third party intermediary seems to be one reason why Ofgem has struggled to please everyone with its plans to regulate the growing numbers of middlemen (and women!) in energy.

In a letter to TPIs and consultants this week, Ofgem’s Rob Church, Associate Partner for Smart Metering and Smart Markets, said they put forward two options for this definition:

a) “a non-domestic TPI is an intermediary engaged in direct or indirect activities between a non-domestic consumer and an active energy supplier”.
b) “an intermediary between a non-domestic consumer and an energy supplier, providing advice and assistance to the customer in relation to their energy needs”.

They’re not quite carbon copies – so what’s the difference?

The first has a broader emphasis: not just on the broker side of things, procurement, what you could call a paperwork pal, also including the “agony aunt” branch of consulting. Ofgem says the second definition is “narrower”.

We are still waiting to hear back which one – if either of them – will be chosen as THE definitive benchmark for who must be a member of code of practice.

Could this mean there are any firms which won’t need it? It seems unlikely, as their spokesperson tells me they are aiming for a “wide” catch-all.

So what do you think? Is either definition bang on – or is there something missing? If you can do better, let us know and post YOUR ideal phrase to define a TPI below… And maybe which book you’d take on a desert island – being prepared for any eventuality is only perspicacious.

*impuissant = impotent, weak. nidificate = to build a nest. I couldn’t leave you wondering!