Fuel poverty action required as energy companies follow suit

02 September 2008 / by Rebecca Sargent
Charities are calling for more action against fuel poverty as npower and ScottishPower become the latest energy providers to follow suit and hike gas and electricity prices.

According to Age Concern, the number of households living in fuel poverty could hit 5.5 million this winter as a result of recent price increases from the leaders of the energy market.

The gas and electricity price increases are as much as 34.4 per cent from ScottishPower for electricity, and are expected to have a real impact on British households already struggling to survive the credit crunch.

According to the energy companies, wholesale gas and electricity prices have forced them to pass the increases on to consumers. ScottishPower's director of Energy Retail, Willie MacDiarmid, commented:

"These are difficult times and we understand the financial impact this announcement will have on our customers. Although we're one of the last companies to announce increases we're sorry we couldn't hold on any longer. However we have worked very hard to protect people for as long as possible from these considerable increases in the wholesale market."

According to a coalition between Age Concern, Child Poverty Action Group and National Energy Action (NEA), the combined profits of the big six gas and electricity providers last year were more than double those in 2006. A huge increase compared to the 1.2 per cent they spent on social assistance schemes.

Director general of Age Concern, Gordon Lishman, said: "All of the political parties are talking about fairness. Our challenge to them and the energy industry is to make social tariffs fair for the millions of poorest pensioners and families they are currently failing to help.

"It is shocking that by the end of the year more than one in three pensioner households are likely to be in fuel poverty, yet few of them will get any help from their energy supplier. Even some of the big energy companies have admitted that voluntary social tariffs aren't working. The Government and the energy companies must work together to share the rising costs of energy prices fairly by reforming social tariffs."

Director of communications at NEA, Maria Wardrobe added: "At best, the £225million promised by suppliers to help those in need will lift just 100,000 out of fuel poverty. This is woefully inadequate when you consider that 5 million households in the UK are struggling to pay their fuel bills and energy companies have experienced record profits."

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