Households are set to find out their energy bills will rise again from the start of the new year as hopes for relief from the cost of living crisis are put on hold. Ofgem will announce its latest price cap on Thursday, November 23, with energy consultancy Cornwall Insight predicting it will increase from the current £1,834 for a typical dual fuel household to £1,931(5% increase) from January to March.
The forecasts suggest the typical bill will then fall to £1,853 from the start of April, but will not drop below today's level until July next year. Cornwall Insight said recent milder weather was helping to bring down gas prices, and this could help reduce bills next year if it continued, but warned "sharp price falls are not expected".
Dr Craig Lowrey, principal consultant at Cornwall Insight, said: "An unstable wholesale energy market, coupled with the UK's reliance on energy imports, makes it inevitable that energy bills will rise from current levels.”
Dr Lowrey continued: "This leaves households facing yet another winter with bills hundreds of pounds higher than pre-pandemic levels, and affordable fixed deals few and far between. The King's Speech acknowledged it is our exposure to volatile international energy markets that has led to higher and less predictable bills.
"While we continue to advocate for immediate targeted support for vulnerable consumers, it is evident that the only enduring solution lies in transitioning the UK away from the influence of global energy prices towards sustainable, domestically sourced energy."
Hazel Knowles, energy lead for Advice Direct Scotland, said: “We have already witnessed high demand from households across Scotland seeking assistance with their energy bills. Costs are significantly higher than they were before the energy crisis began, and this latest warning ahead of this week’s announcement means that many Scots face a challenging winter ahead.
“We urge people across Scotland not to struggle alone - our expert advisers can provide free advice on the support available. Energy affordability also needs a long-term solution, and we support calls for a social tariff to protect people from spending excessive amounts on their bills.”
Emily Seymour, energy editor at consumer magazine Which?, said: "If you are concerned about struggling to pay higher bills, don't suffer in silence - 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 December 31 to make sure they don't overpay for any energy used before the new price cap takes effect. Submitting meter readings on a regular basis is a good idea, and makes sure you are billed correctly."
New research from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) indicates almost half of people in Scotland say energy bills are their biggest financial concern this winter.
The charity has launched a new campaign called Worried This Winter to encourage people who are worried about energy bills to seek advice from the Citizens Advice network.
Based on analysis of YouGov polling on a sample size of 1,000, CAS research estimated 2.2 million people in Scotland, or 48 per cent of adults, were worried about their bills. The research also estimated more than 1.4 million are worried about not being able to heat their homes effectively over the winter.
People can get advice online or visit their local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or specialist services like the Money Talk Team. CAS said the average gain from energy-related advice across the network was more than £400.
Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “As the weather turns cold, it’s perfectly understandable that people are worried about their energy bills and keeping their homes warm. Our new campaign says to people it’s okay to be worried this winter, because the CAB network is here to help you regardless of your background or circumstances. Our advice is free, impartial and confidential.”
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Scottish Government energy minister Gillian Martin said: “Energy bills remain significantly higher than this time two years ago, so campaigns like this are vitally important to ensure consumers are receiving the support they need.
“I would encourage anybody who is struggling with high energy bills or wider debt issues to contact the Citizens Advice network online or through their very experienced local network of bureaux.
Find out more about getting help with winter energy bills on the CAS website here.
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