With gas and electricity prices in the spotlight as autumn draws in, energy analysts are warning that one in four households will be driven into fuel poverty if the Government continues with its controversial green energy targets.
This follows news yesterday that families are already suffering from an "unprecedented collapse" in living standards, and the energy companies don't seem to be helping at al.
The Government is facing increasing pressure to stop or delay plans to force through the £200billion programme to switch to wind turbines, wave power and new nuclear power stations.
The Daily Mail reports that energy industry analyst Martin Brough, of Deutsche Bank, warned that a quarter of households could be driven into fuel poverty by 2015. He said: "Our analysis suggests rising energy bills and sluggish income growth will make household energy less affordable than at any time since the oil shocks of the 1970s."
Energy tariffs have rocketed by around 20% in the past year, pushing up the annual average bill to £1,293. Deutsche Bank predicts bills will rise by another 25%– around £325 – by 2015, taking the figure to £1,618.
The shift to green energy is being driven by EU targets to reduce emissions and supported by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne.
Despite fears that the move will plunge more households into fuel poverty, Dr Robert Gross, director of the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology at Imperial College, insists families will be better off by switching from fossil fuels.
He told the Mail: "Cutting support for renewables would slow down the UK's progress in reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels."
Poor energy advice
The warning comes amid news today that energy firms are offering poor advice to consumers who inquire about switching to cheaper tariffs .
In an investigation by consumer group Which? calls were made to the six major energy suppliers clearly asking for the cheapest deal - yet in nearly a third of calls the companies failed to offer their cheapest tariff.
Staff also gave questionable advice about potential savings, cashback deals and fixed prices. Which? found that Southern Electric telesales staff only mentioned its cheapest tariff in three of the 12 calls made to it over the course of one week, while seven of the 12 EDF Energy salespeople recommended its more expensive fixed-rate deals instead of its cheaper online tariff.
Across all the companies, one third of the staff questioned did not mention relevant exit fees, while Scottish Power failed to reveal its £51 exit fees in nine of the 12 calls made to it during the week-long investigation.