Utility provider Scottish Power has announced a shocking 19% rise in gas prices and a 10% increase in electricity prices from August 2011.
Blaming the increases on a rise in wholesale energy costs and volatility in global energy markets, their price rises will affect 2.4m households and will add about £175 a year to household energy bills.
Scottish Power last increased their prices in November 2010 – raising gas bills by 2% and electricity by 8.9%. The company, which made core profits of £1.2b last year, will notify customers from 11 June, giving them at least 30 days’ notice before the price change is due to take effect.
Raymond Jack, Scottish Power’s UK retail director, said: “Wholesale prices for gas and electricity have increased significantly since the end of last year, and continuing unrest in global energy markets means future prices are volatile, ” said Raymond Jack, Scottish Power’s UK retail director.
“We understand times are difficult for many people, and we have done what we can to absorb these additional costs for as long as possible to minimise the impact on our customers.”
Consumer groups have blasted the price increase, which will hit hard pressed families and the elderly especially, and believe it is a move which could prompt a wave of further price rises from the other “big five” energy providers just months after last winter’s price rises. It has been described as a “body blow for consumers” by Consumer Focus.
Audrey Gallacher, of Consumer Focus, said: “This huge increase will be a body blow for consumers and we fear other firms will follow Scottish Power’s lead. Companies have been softening customers up for price rises for months but customers will be shocked at the scale of this rise.”
Consumer Focus estimates that at least half a million people would struggle to pay their energy bills if the other big five energy companies followed suit.
MPs on the House of Commons business, innovation and skills committee have threatened to order a new inquiry into power bills if other companies followed in Scottish Power’s footsteps. Adrian Bailey, the chairman, said: “This increase is quite astonishing. It will have an enormous impact on the state of the economy.”
With increasing fuel prices being a foregone conclusion, now more than ever it’s imperative for consumers to implement measures around the home to help cut energy costs, such as installing energy efficient condensing boilers to fitting draught proofing.