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Adam Aiken, Editor
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The increases in October will see the company’s 3.3 million customers hit by average increases of more than 15pc a year for gas and more than 7pc for electricity. The average dual-fuel bill will go up by 12pc a year.
Npower said it had kept its increases below those of its rivals, but there was a strong response to the news from consumer groups.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: “This price hike will make consumers yet again question what’s happening in our energy market, especially as Npower’s parent company has just announced a 130pc increase in profits for the first half of 2011.
“Given such healthy results, people are bound to wonder why their domestic bills have to go up this much.
“The Bank of England has predicted that rising utility bills will drive inflation to 5pc by the end of the year, which will put more pressure on already squeezed households.
“It’s critical that Npower and all suppliers do more to help customers cut their energy bills – whether that’s by getting on to the cheapest tariff or making their homes more energy-efficient.”
Kevin Miles, chief commercial officer at RWE Npower, said: “I know it hurts everyone when we put up prices and I wish we didn’t have to.
“Although our half-year profits were better than last year, they do not begin to match the billions of pounds we are investing in energy for the future.
“With reduced quantities of North Sea gas, we are now forced to buy energy on the volatile global wholesale market. World events have pushed up prices and we believe this trend will continue.
“In the UK we have also seen rising distribution and network charges, and further environmental costs but we have still managed to keep our increases lower than those announced by any other major supplier.”
The news means that EDF Energy is the only one of the Big Six suppliers not to announce steep price hikes recently, but you would get good odds if you wanted to bet against EDF moving soon.
Tom Lyon, energy expert at Uswitch.com, said EDF was pulling its cheapest fixed-price energy plan from the market – and that was a sign it was about to push its prices upwards.
“The news that EDF is pulling its cheapest fixed-price plan will start alarm bells ringing,” he said.
“Previously, when the best fixed plans disappeared off the market, price rises have been quick to follow
“But, in this, case EDF has brought out a new fixed plan that is only £42 a year more than the plan it is pulling – plus consumers can fix their prices for an extra three months until the end of December 2012. Its new plan is still the cheapest of the big six.
“This suggests that there is still time for those who want to fix their prices, but it’s fair to say that they may be drinking in the last chance saloon.”