Opinion Former Article

NEA: Energy price rise misery mounts for millions of homes

Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) has today voiced its deep concern after a further fuel price rise which will hit vulnerable customers hard.

Taking immediate effect, ScottishPower have announced that electricity prices will rise by an average of 14% across the UK and gas prices will rise by 15%.

On the basis of this year's energy price rises NEA has estimated that an additional 420,000 households have been forced into fuel poverty.

ScottishPower are the fourth of the Big Six energy providers to put their prices up this year. Less than a fortnight ago British Gas raised their prices significantly, while EDF Energy price rises came into effect on January 18th shortly after npower's announcement of double digit increases took effect on 5th January.

Jenny Saunders, NEA's Chief Executive, said: "This is yet another deeply concerning price rise which will come as a major blow to millions of households. There are already 4 million households struggling to afford to pay their fuel bills in the UK.

"Gordon Brown has pledged to ensure that he will do everything possible to eradicate fuel poverty and we are pressing for reassurance that the additional VAT receipts he will receive from the price increases are recycled into energy efficiency schemes for the fuel poor.

"We do welcome ScottishPower's introduction of a social tariff which will offer eligible customers on their Priority Service Register a saving of up to £112 per annum and we are calling for all other energy suppliers to follow suit.

"But with the weather so bitterly cold at present heating is a priority and price hikes will put a massive strain on the budgets of many vulnerable people."

In the light of a recent report commissioned by energywatch demonstrating that energy suppliers are not doing enough to help vulnerable households, NEA is calling on the Government to take urgent action to minimise the impact of price rises on the most vulnerable through:

1. The introduction of measures for a national low cost social tariff that suppliers must offer low-income customers.

2. The extension of the £200 winter fuel payment to include not just pensioners over 60, but also many low-income families with children under five, or household members who are disabled or chronically ill.

3. An increase to funding for the Government's energy efficiency grant scheme (Warm Front) which has effectively been cut over the next three years.

Jenny Saunders added: "Our advice to people who are concerned is to get in touch with your fuel provider and talk about the best tariff you are eligible for, or call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99.

Ends

Notes to the Editor

1. NEA is the leading fuel poverty charity campaigning for affordable warmth in the homes of vulnerable people. Visit www.nea.org.uk

2. Fuel poverty is defined as the need to spend over 10% of household income on fuel costs to maintain adequate warmth for health and comfort.

3. A 1% rise in energy prices forces 40,000 households into fuel poverty.

4. Since 2003 domestic gas charges have increased by some 85% and charges for electricity by 63%.

5. Funding for ScottishPower Energy People Trust has increased to a total of £4.3m. Since its inception in January 2006 the Trust has awarded over £3.2m to 82 projects, which have assisted over 206,000 individuals throughout Britain.

6. ScottishPower has set standard pre-payment prices for both gas and electricity lower than standard quarterly credit prices.

For more information contact David Bootle, NEA Press Officer on 0191 2615677, or david.bootle@nea.org.uk, or for out of hours contact please try Jenny Saunders on 07703346666

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