SSE hikes energy prices as Britain heads into winter
Labour has denounced a hike of up to 10% in gas and electric bills for millions of households, accusing David Cameron of failing to get a grip on profiteering suppliers.
Energy giant SSE sparked fury by announcing rises that will add £106 to its typical dual-fuel customer bill – pushing it up to £1,380 a year.
The move is expected to trigger a series of increases by the other Big Six energy suppliers – Centrica, EDF, Scottish Power, E.ON and nPower.
Will Morris, group managing director of retail at SSE, apologised to customers but said it had been forced to raise tariffs amid rising costs.
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The company said wholesale energy prices were up 4%, paying to use newly upgraded networks by 10% and Government-imposed levies up 13%.
"We know we will come in for a great deal of criticism for this decision and politicians will no doubt be lining up to condemn us," Mr Morris said. "But over many years policymakers themselves have failed to highlight adequately the cost to consumers of the policies they have pursued in Government. They can't expect to have power stations replaced with new technologies, the network to be upgraded and nationwide energy efficiency schemes all to be funded for free."
However, Labour leader Ed Miliband insisted the suppliers were "ripping people off" and said the increases – which will take effect on November 15 and affect an estimated 7.3 million customers – reinforced the need for a 20-month freeze on energy prices. "The Government is letting the energy companies get away with it and letting down the British people," he said.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey denied green levies were a major factor in driving up prices, and urged customers to look elsewhere for cheaper tariffs.
The Prime Minister's spokesman said David Cameron "really, really understands" the pressure on family budgets, stressing that the Government was already taking action in areas such as rail fares and council tax to prop up living standards – but stressed that sustainable prosperity, with low mortgage rates, was what had the "fundamental impact".
SSE's price hike will see an average increase of 8.2% – three times the rate of inflation – affecting 4.4 million household electricity customers and 2.9 million gas users. It has around 9.5 million customer accounts, many of which are on fixed-price tariffs. Regional variations mean rises will range from 7% in northern England and parts of Scotland to 9.7% in the South East. They will be higher for those who use a high proportion of cheaper energy at off-peak times.
SSE, which trades as Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, said the rise would come into effect from November 15, and it pledged not to lift them again for a year. It last increased tariffs a year ago, by 9%, just before a bitterly cold spell. The bad weather helped the firm to increase annual profits at its household retail arm by 28% to £410.1 million as gas consumption rose by a fifth.