British Gas blames regulation for 9pc hike in energy bills

Suzie Neuwirth

THE UK’S energy debate was ignited again yesterday, after British Gas said it would be raising customers’ bills by 9.2 per cent from 23 November – adding £104 on to the average annual dual fuel bill – and blamed the government’s green initiatives for almost half of the increase.

Centrica, which owns the big six energy supplier, said yesterday the average gas bill will rise by 8.4 per cent, while electricity will increase by 10.4 per cent.

The firm estimates that the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), an energy-efficiency scheme, will add £40 to the average bill in 2014, with other environmental policies responsible for a further £10.

Network charges will add on £20 and wholesale energy costs will add on £37, Centrica said. The price hike will make Centrica’s average bill slightly higher than rival SSE, which announced an 8.2 per cent bill rise earlier this week.

Margins at the group were 5.9 per cent last year.

Prime Minister David Cameron urged customers to switch suppliers and energy secretary Ed Davey defended the government’s policies, saying: “British Gas’s ECO numbers just don’t add up”. Centrica rebuffed the claim. “Costs will vary from supplier to supplier over the course of a typical year because it depends on the timing of the ECO projects entered into with local authorities and housing associations,” it said.

“People are sick and tired of being left out of pocket because of David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies,” said shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint.

Energy policy has been dominating the political agenda since Labour leader Ed Miliband used a party conference speech to pledge a price freeze for 20 months if his party wins the next election.