Ryan Crighton, 4th February 2008
Scottish Power today imposed inflation-busting price increases on its customers – the fourth major energy supplier to do so in four weeks.
The group, which has 5.2million customers across the UK, said electricity prices will rise by an average of 14%, and gas prices by 15%.
It follows double-digit price increases by British and Scottish Gas, Npower and EDF.
Scottish Power’s electricity rises will vary by region, but a spokesman said most customers face a 14% increase.
That equates to an extra £56 on the average annual £402 electricity bill, according to Energywatch UK.
The 15% on gas equates to a £85 increase to £652.
A typical dual fuel bill will rise by £141 to £1,100, based on the watchdog’s estimated consumption for the average home in Scotland.
Scottish Power said customers with dual-fuel tariffs face an average increase of 14.8%.
The new prices come into force from today, but will not affect 1.2million customers on capped or fixed-price deals.
Major power firms have blamed dwindling gas supplies from the UK and abroad, record oil prices and the increasing cost of combating climate change for the price pressure.
Scottish Gas announced two weeks ago that its prices would soar 15%. Npower has put gas up by 17.2% and electricity up by 12.7%, while EDF increased charges by 12.9% and 7.9%.
However, Scottish Hydro Electric was praised last week for promising a price freeze at least until the end of March.
It pledged to delay any increase until the start of British Summer Time.
Scotland’s Communities Minister, Stewart Maxwell, said the latest price rise will come as a shock to people across Scotland, particularly pensioners and other vulnerable groups.
The minister added: “I have already met with representatives of the energy industry and would again appeal to the companies to keep costs affordable for consumers, and do more to protect vulnerable customers – profit margins must not override people’s need to heat their homes.”
Last night Help the Aged warned that the latest rises could plunge tens of thousands of Scotland’s elderly into fuel poverty.
“This comes as another blow for older people living in Scotland and all other vulnerable groups in Scotland who live on a fixed income,” a spokesman said.
“Every time that energy prices go up 1%, 3,500 older people in Scotland are plunged into fuel poverty.
“Therefore, a rise of 15% is a disaster for the elderly.
“There are thousands of older people in Scotland who have perfectly-functioning central heating but simply can’t afford to turn it on.”
Energy Action Scotland director Norman Kerr added: “Energy price rises will push more people into fuel poverty, which means they will struggle to heat their homes and will fear high fuel bills.”
Scottish Power, owned by Spanish energy firm Iberdrola, said the increases were necessary after the cost of coal rose by 97% and wholesale gas prices went up 83% compared with a year ago.
The Glasgow-based firm claimed its bills were still cheaper for combined gas and electricity than those of British and Scottish Gas.
Its director of energy retail, Willie MacDiarmid, said: “We have worked hard to protect our customers from these increases for as long as possible and offer consistently competitive energy prices.”
Soaring costs in the wholesale gas market, where the companies buy their supplies, have been the main driver for higher bills.
The series of price rises has led to allegations of collusion by the major suppliers.
But regulator Ofgem said it found no evidence of any anti-competitive behaviour and the market was working well.