UK hit by 57 energy price rises in 2018 as cap looms | Business

This year has proved the worst ever for the number of price rises energy suppliers have inflicted on consumers.

Energy firms announced a total of 57 price increases in 2018 compared with 15 last year, according to new analysis.

Some of the challenger firms upped tariffs as many as three times across the year and several of the big six that dominate the market raised them twice. Altogether, an average of £74 was added to annual dual fuel bills.

The worst offender was Economy Energy, which hit its 250,000 customers with a 38% price rise in October, equivalent to a £311 increase.

2018 was the worst year ever for energy bill price rises

The firm recently reassured households it was trading normally after it missed a deadline for paying renewable energy subsidies, which is usually a sign a firm is struggling. Eight suppliers have collapsed this year.

The next four worst offenders for price rises were all small suppliers. Scottish Power was the worst of the big six, with a total increase of 9.4%, or £109 extra a year, closely followed by the market leader, British Gas.

Lily Green, the head of research at the auto-switching service Look After My Bills, which compiled the figures, said: “Small and large energy companies are raising prices across the board and not just once – but two or three times a year. People can’t be expected to keep up with it all.”

The number of energy suppliers has almost tripled in the past five years, with challenger firms seizing around a fifth of the market share.

In 2013 there were only six price rises. Even after stripping out the effect of more players in the industry, 2018 was a record year for the number of increases.

Prices have been pushed up by spiralling wholesale electricity and gas costs facing suppliers, which are the single biggest component of energy bills.

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Gas prices, which usually decline in summer as demand goes down, continued to rise across the summer as companies bought supplies to replenish storage facilities run down by the cold snap at the end of last winter. The price of carbon in the EU, which feeds through to energy costs, has also been high because of anticipated carbon trading reforms taking effect in January.

Around 11m households on default tariffs will experience some relief on 1 January, when the government’s price cap takes effect. The measure is expected to save those homes an average of £76 a year.

However, customers of the small suppliers Fischer Energy, Pure Planet and Outfox the Market, which price below the cap, can all expect increases in January.

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