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Energy price rises: the story so far

What's happened to energy prices and how will Britain's households be affected?

Four of the Big Six energy suppliers have now announced increases to the cost of gas and electricity, with millions of households set to see their bills rise throughout November and December. 

Unfortunately this is something that consumers knew to expect - energy price increases have become part of a predictable seasonal trend in Britain, and they usually tend to strike just as the temperatures plummet.

While more rises are almost certainly on the way, plenty has already happened in the current round of price hikes. Here we summarise the story so far and highlight how you could be affected.

September 24th:

Labour leader Ed Miliband uses his speech at the party's annual conference to promise the nation an energy price freeze if he is elected as the next Prime Minister.

With the election set to take place in 2015, Mr Miliband says the freeze would be in force for a 20-month period, saving average households £120 and businesses £1,800.

September 25th:

Shares in SSE and Centrica fall by more than 3% following Ed Miliband's announcement.

September 30th:

Chancellor George Osborne brands Ed Miliband's price freeze promise a "policy drawn up on the back of a fag packet".

The Labour leader continues to face strong scrutiny from the press as he claims that his announcement will not prompt energy suppliers to hike their prices ahead of the next election.

October 10th:

SSE becomes the first of the Big Six to announce changes to its household energy tariffs, with customers seeing an 8.2% jump in the cost of gas and electricity. The new prices will come into effect on November 15th, with the average household set to receive an annual bill of £1,379 - a £105 increase.

Defending the move, SSE says: "Buying wholesale energy in global markets, delivering it to customers' homes, and government-imposed levies collected through bills - endorsed by all the major parties - all cost more than they did last year."

Ed Miliband calls the price rise a "rip-off".

October 17th:

British Gas unveils its new household energy tariffs - the cost of gas will increase by 8.4% while electricity will rise by 10.4%. The new rates will come into force on November 23rd, with customers set for an average annual bill of £1,388 - an increase of £117.

In a bid to explain the hike, British Gas takes a similar line to SSE: "What's pushing up energy prices at the moment are costs that are not all directly under our control, such as the global price of energy, charges that we have to pay for using the national grid that delivers energy to the home, and the cost of the government's social and environmental programmes."

Prime Minister David Cameron calls the price rises "disappointing".

Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy, says: "The company will need to justify this decision openly and transparently."

October 18th:

One of the UK's smallest energy suppliers - Co-operative Energy - reveals its energy prices are going to rise by 4.5%. The rates will affect new customers from October 21st, but changes will come into effect for existing customers on January 8th 2014. The firm claims the average annual bill will be £1,315.

The Sun and The Times both print front page stories which urge consumers to switch energy supplier to get a better deal.

Prime Minister David Cameron attracts controversy after reportedly advising people to "wrap up warm" and wear a jumper as a means to keep their energy bills down. 

October 21st:

RWE npower becomes the third of the Big Six to announce energy price increases - and they're the biggest so far.

Customers will see electricity prices rise by 9.3% while gas will surge by 11.1%. The average household supplied by npower will now face an annual bill of £1,385 - a £128 jump on last year. The new prices are scheduled to come into effect on December 1st.

Paul Massara, CEO RWE npower, criticises Ed Miliband's price freeze promise when announcing the increases.

He added: "Only 16% of the bill is under our control and imposing price controls discourages investment, increases uncertainty and ultimately leads to higher prices." 

October 22nd:

Ofgem announces that Scottish Power has agreed to pay £8.5 million to consumers after an investigation into the suppliers' sales practices revealed customers had received misleading information.

A total of £1 million will be dedicated to a compensation fund, while £7.5 million will be paid via the Warm Home Discount Scheme.

Elsewhere, a ruling that prevents households from being automatically rolled-over onto a new fixed term energy deal comes into force. Ofgem says that suppliers will also have to introduce simpler tariffs by the end of the year.

To cap off a busy day, former Prime Minister Sir John Major calls for a one-off windfall tax on Britain's top energy firms, arguing that price rises of more than 10% are "unacceptable". The government labels the idea "interesting" but reveals that no such plans are being considered.  

October 23rd:

During Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron suggests the government could look to roll back green levies as a means to drive down people's bills. He also announces that the energy market should undergo an annual competition audit. 

Responding to pressure from Ed Miliband, the Conservative leader says: "We want a more competitive market. We need an annual audit of competition to make this market more competitive." 

October 24th:

Scottish Power announces it is increasing its energy prices - gas will rise by an average of 8.5% while electricity will jump 9%.

Neil Clitheroe, Scottish Power's CEO of Energy Retail and Generation, says the move is a result of an increase in "the cost of purchasing and delivering energy to homes across Britain". 


After David Cameron hinted that green levies may be removed from energy bills, Nick Clegg implies that the move could be paid for through general taxation, although adds that he isn't in complete agreement with the idea.

Such a measure would see the government to stick to its environmental policies and continue generating money to promote cleaner energy. 

October 25th:

Five of the Big Six are accused of showing "contempt" for the government and consumers as it is revealed that they will not be sending their chief executives to a Select Committee showdown.

E.ON looks set to be the only supplier which will send its top boss to face questions on price rises, with MPs aiming strong criticism at npower, British Gas, SSE, EDF and Scottish Power.  

October 28th:

Energy UK chief executive Angela Knight sparks outrage by claiming that energy companies' £3.7 billion profits "aren't particularly big".

Meanwhile, claims that the rising cost of wholesale energy is to blame for price rises are thrown into doubt - while some consumers have seen an 11.1% increase in their rates, Ofgem data indicates that wholesale prices only crept up by 1.7% over the past year.  

October 29th:

Representatives of the Big Six face MPs at the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, answering questions on energy price rises.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, managing director of Ovo Energy, says he is "confused" by the explanations for price rises as the wholesale costs his company pays have actually been falling.

Tony Cocker, chief executive of E.On, urges the Prime Minister to implement a full investigation of the whole energy market. However, Centrica says such an inquiry is "unnecessary as the market is competitive".  

SSE managing director William Morris calls for green levies to be removed from bills and paid for through general taxation, explaining that savings could be passed on to consumers.  

October 30th:

Amid tough questioning from MPs, David Cameron calls for an immediate inquiry into competition in the energy sector.  

The Prime Minister also highlights that Ed Miliband has taken the government's advice and switched his energy supplier to get a better deal. 

Elsewhere, experts say that householders face decades of paying for overpriced energy as a result of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station agreement

October 31st:

Energy secretary Ed Davey calls on suppliers to facilitate the implementation of faster switching.

Explaining that consumers would enjoy extensive benefits from quicker processes, Mr Davey says that his ultimate target is for households to be able to switch their energy supplier in the space of 24 hours.  

November 12th:

After weeks of speculation, EDF Energy announces that its energy prices will increase by an average of 3.9%. The rises will come into force from January 3rd next year.

The supplier adds: If the government decides to cut the cost of social and environmental schemes to a greater extent than the industry currently expects, any savings will be passed onto customers.

November 13th:

The National Audit Office (NAO) releases a report which claims that energy prices could keep rising ahead of inflation until 2030.

According to the NAO, the reason for this is that high levels of new infrastructural investment are expected to jump significantly.  

The story continues...

Image credit: Nick Page