Annual energy bills for the average UK household are expected to rise by £73 in January, a new forecast suggests, due to increases in wholesale energy prices.
Consultancy firm Cornwall Insight predicts bills could increase to £1,996 under the official price cap set by the UK’s energy regulator Ofgem.
Dr Craig Lowrey, principal consultant at the group, said that although it was disappointing to see the trend in energy bills falling over the past year seeming to “stall”, it was “not wholly unexpected”.
He said: “While the rise is small, it shows we cannot just assume prices will continue their fall and eventually reach pre-crisis levels.
“Policies need to be put in place to deal with the possible situation that high energy prices have become the new normal.”
From Sunday, the price cap for a typical dual-fuel household will pay £1,923 a year until December, down from £2,074 in July to September.
But this is still more than 50 per cent higher than before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a global energy crisis.
The lack of government support – last year all UK households were given £400 to help with soaring energy bills – this winter will hit Britons hard.
On top of this, standing charges have risen from an average of £186 a year in October 2021 to just over £300.
More than a third of British adults said they thought they would struggle to pay energy bills this winter without help from the government, according to a YouGov survey.
And for those who rely on benefits, the elderly, and disabled families who have extortionately high energy costs due to life saving equipment, the next few months are looking particularly bleak.
Now, a coalition of 140 organisations and MPs has called on Rishi Sunak to consider introducing a social tariff for energy bills – meaning lower cost packages for people on low incomes.
Groups like National Energy Action, Citizens Advice and Age UK told the Prime Minister that vulnerable people needed “targeted support”.
They said: “These are people whose bills have become so unaffordable that they are having to make the desperate choice nobody should have to make – between heating and eating.
“This is a long-term problem that requires a sustainable safety net for these people. Anything else will be a costly sticking plaster.”
Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, which is part of the Warm This Winter campaign, said: “From October 1, all households in every part of the country will pay more on energy standing charges, more into the profits of energy firms and many are more in debt to their suppliers.
“Average energy bills are still almost double what they were three years ago and Government help for households, which was available last winter, has been axed. This means this winter will feel worse for many households.
“If Members of Parliament on the House of Commons Energy Security Committee can see problems households will face, why can’t the Government?”
Wheelchair user Anne Vivian-Smith, 52, of Nottingham, lost two stone last winter due to increased prices of energy and she fears that history could repeat itself this year.
Speaking to the Express, she said: “My mental health has gone downhill, and I worry a lot. Last year’s worry has become this year’s loss of hope.
“We had a short-term plaster of government payments last winter, which Scope found missed 800,000 disabled people, but we haven’t even got that this time around.”
It comes as a survey suggested that 23 per cent of households are planning to delay turning on their heating this year due to high costs.
The study for Uswitch found that young people were less worried about energy bills, with 38 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 having turned the heating on already compared with 24 per cent of 35 to 55-year-olds and just 17 per cent of over-55s.
Uswitch energy spokeswoman Natalie Mathie said: “Nearly a quarter of people say they’ll turn on the heating later this year to save money on energy bills, and it’s concerning that two million households plan to get through winter without heating.
“If you don’t want to turn the heating on yet, there are cost-effective alternatives for staying warm, like using a portable heater, hot water bottle, or electric blanket.
“There’s nothing worse than having your boiler break down when it’s freezing outside and every engineer is busy, so it makes sense to check your boiler is serviced now.”
Regulator Ofgem said that with energy prices easing, they would allow suppliers to make more money off their customers.
Chief executive Jonathan Brearley said: “This means there should be no excuses for suppliers not to be doing all they can to support their customers this winter, and to reinforce this we’ll be introducing a consumer code of conduct which we will look to have in place by winter.
Emily Seymour, Which? Energy Editor, said: “Even with this drop in prices from October, energy bills are significantly higher than they were before the energy crisis began – meaning some households will still struggle to afford their bill.
“If you are concerned about struggling to pay higher bills, there is help available. Speak to your energy provider about a payment plan you can afford and check to see if you qualify for any government schemes.
“We’d recommend that everyone without a smart meter takes a meter reading on or close to 30 September to make sure their energy company doesn’t overcharge them for units used after Sunday’s price drop. Submitting meter readings on a regular basis is a good idea and makes sure you are billed correctly.
“Fixed deals are starting to return to the market, but we wouldn’t recommend fixing anything higher than the unit rates in your current deal or for longer than a year. If you are offered a deal, then it’s really important to check the tariff’s exit fees in case you want to leave that deal early if the price cap comes down.”