Two waves of energy price hikes in under a year have piled an extra £2.24 billion onto household energy bills and have tipped a further 840,000 households into fuel poverty, according to independent price comparison site uSwitch.com. While the average household now faces an annual energy bill of £1,293, the number living in fuel poverty has rocketed to an incredible 6.9 million.
Since last November energy suppliers have, on average, increased their prices by £224 or 21 percent. As a result, the average annual household energy bill has rocketed from £1,069 to £1,293. All of Britain's big six energy suppliers have now increased their prices twice in the last year, most recently EDF announced it's second price hike of 15.4 percent or £101 for gas and 4.5 percent or £21 for electricity will come into effect on 10th November.
These two huge price hikes have meant fuel poverty numbers have spiralled, with 6.9 million or 27 percent of households now affected. According to uSwitch.com, the worst groups affected are single working parents, pensioners and couples living off one income.
Previously fuel poverty was seen as an issue affecting mainly pensioners and lower income groups, but with soaring energy bills even the more affluent middle classes are falling prey. In fact, uSwitch.com estimate that for every 1 percent increase in gas and electricity bills, a further 40,000 households are believed to be plunged into fuel poverty.
In just over 5 years, household energy bills have rocketed by £633 or a whopping 96 percent - from £660 a year in 2006 to £1,293 a year. The biggest year for increases however was 2008, when suppliers also increased prices twice, by 41 percent, taking the average household bill from £819 to £1,153 a year.
Tom Lyon, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: "Last winter over three quarters of people rationed their energy use because of cost, while over 14 million households went without heating at some point to keep their energy costs down.
"We are in danger of seeing energy becoming an unaffordable luxury for the few instead of a household basic for the many. As a result many households are being forced to make unpalatable and sometimes even dangerous choices. My concern is that the impact will really become apparent this coming winter.
"We cannot underestimate the effect that higher household energy prices will have on consumers - for many it will involve a complete shift in attitude and behaviour. People need to adjust quickly and there are two key steps to this - making sure we pay the lowest possible price for our energy and learning to use less of it by becoming energy efficient rather than energy deficient, which could put your health and well-being at risk."