Energy bills to spark winter of discontent

Another round of shock energy price rises are on the way. Energy watchdog Ofgem claims wholesale gas prices for the coming winter could leap 30% higher still. That could mean increases of up to £300 per year for many UK householders. Already Scottish Power has announced rises.


Avoidable?

Separately Ofgem still plans to investigate the big six energy providers over cartel fears. There is increasing resentment that the main energy players appear quicker to hike prices than to lower them.

Yet the gas wholesale price rises - pushed higher by the fall-out from the Japanese nuclear disaster and Middle East tensions - are a claimed fact: "Moving wholesale prices have been very material, well over 20%, in recent months," says newly knighted Sir Roger Carr, chairman of British Gas.

"In those circumstances, it is just a commercial fact that those things convert into price increases. It's high. Nobody likes higher prices but it's passing on costs which nobody can avoid".

'Shop around'

But there's also costs - substantial ones - of so-called de-carbonising our energy supplies, and the power companies will certainly slap these onto our bills. Energy secretary (and millionaire) Chris Huhne's advice to consumers so far to combat this is to 'shop around'.

Yet that's of little help when all the energy companies are piling on the expenses, usually within weeks of each other. And it's also little help when we have 300 tariffs to choose from and an industry pricing structure almost completely opaque.

Plus a consumer regulator which has consistently shied away from proper confrontation with the big players.

So you may want to hang onto last winter's woolly jumpers and, if you haven't done it already, start thinking about how you can insulate your home better.

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