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Thousands switch off heating in sub-zero weather to cut bills

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31/01/2013
Rising prices have forced seven out of 10 households to go without heating this winter.
Thousands switch off heating in sub-zero weather to cut bills

According to uSwitch.com, almost three quarters of households have cut down or rationed their energy use this winter because of the increased cost, with almost nine in ten now considering the cost before switching their heating on.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, said: “When it comes to household energy Britain has run slap bang into an affordability crisis – as a result, people are going cold. The cost of energy is now so high that households are going without heating in the depths of winter for fear of running up a large bill.

“This severe level of rationing can have serious consequences – in fact over a third of consumers say that cutting back on energy is affecting their quality of life or health. This is unacceptable.

“The average household energy bill today is £1,352 a year. Grid upgrade costs and Government policies could see this increase to over £1,400 a year.

“At £1,500 a year we will see a majority of households going without adequate heating and almost four in ten forced to turn their heating off entirely – we are just a hair’s breadth away.”

uSwitch says that consumers may be facing yet more price hikes as the UK’s largest energy supplier, British Gas, has openly warned that the cost of upgrading the national grid along with Government policies could see bills increasing again this year by a further £60

The report highlighted that a £60 increase would take the average household energy bill to an unprecedented level of over £1,400 a year.

Recent research has identified an ‘energy affordability ceiling’ of £1,500 a year beyond which the majority of consumers will start to suffer. 

At this point almost six in ten households (59%) would be going without adequate heating and almost four in ten (36%) would be forced to turn their heating off entirely.

Robinson added: “With the cost of energy escalating, I would urge consumers to take two simple steps to protect themselves.

“Firstly, ensure that you are on the cheapest possible tariff. There is currently just under £250 a year difference between the cheapest and the most expensive deals on the market and as switching suppliers only takes three to five weeks to take effect, there’s still time to make substantial savings this winter.

“Secondly, now more than ever is the time to take energy efficiency and home insulation seriously. This is a safe way of cutting the amount of energy you use and those who need help and support with this should look at the Government’s recently launched Green Deal scheme.”

In recent months all of the ‘Big 6’ energy suppliers have increased their energy prices, some as high as 10.8% for gas and electricity, amid reports of an increase in fuel poverty as families struggle to keep up with increased prices and recent adverse weather conditions.

According to Legal & General, nearly 4.5m households across the country are in fuel poverty this month, making this a small rise since October last year.

The Government states that households who spend more than 10% of their income on gas and electricity are classified as in ‘fuel poverty’.

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