SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy which is made up of Southern Electric, Scottish Hydro, SWALEC and Atlantic), has today announced that it is putting its gas prices up by 9.4% or £67 from 1st December 2010.

The price rise will hit customers on its standard tariffs, affecting around 3.6 million customers and will add an extra £67 on to the average annual SSE standard dual fuel bill, which will increase from £1,159 to £1,226 as a result.

SSE is Britain’s second largest energy supplier and the first of the ‘Big Six’ suppliers to announce a general price increase since 2008.

This sends out a clear warning that household energy bills are on the rise again and comes less than a month after growing distribution costs and realignment to Ofgem’s cost reflectivity rules meant that EDF Energy increased electricity prices for 1.2 million of its customers.

Ofgem’s recent Quarterly Market Report forecast a squeeze on suppliers’ net margins by spring 2011, but with SSE’s price rise today it seems that households could see price hikes far sooner than expected.

Ann Robinson, energy expert at uSwitch says: “With winter about to kick-in this is a body blow for consumers.

“What nobody wants to see is a repeat of 2008 when suppliers last put prices up and bills rocketed by £381 or 42% as a result.

“The average household energy bill today is £1,159.

“For many this is already in the realms of the unaffordable and any increases from here will simply see more people forced to think long and hard about whether to heat their home or cook a meal – this is unacceptable.

“Ofgem’s recent report into wholesale prices suggested that a price hike could be imminent in spring.

“This would at least have bought households some time and would have seen any increases hitting bills after the winter.

“Now, if other suppliers follow SSE’s lead, consumers will see these increases on their heavy winter bills making it a real double whammy.

“There is no room for complacency and I would urge consumers to act now.

“There are two key steps to keeping a lid on your energy bills – use less energy by making your home more energy efficient and move to a competitive energy plan so that you pay less for the energy you do use.

“The difference between the cheapest energy plan in the market and the most expensive is £422 – this is a substantial saving and could make a real difference for those who are worried or struggling with bills.”

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