The UK's six largest energy suppliers (the "big six") all increased prices for domestic energy users in 2017: Npower increased standard tariff electricity prices by 15% and gas prices by 4.8% from 16 March; Scottish Power increased electricity prices by 10.8% and gas prices by 4.7% from 31 March; EDF increased electricity prices by 8.4% from 1 March and by a further 9% from 21 June; E.On increased electricity prices by 13.8% and gas prices by 3.8% on 26 April; SSE increased electricity prices by 14.9% on 28 April; and British Gas increased electricity prices by 12.5% on 15 September. According to price comparison website Compare the Market, average household energy bills rose to £1,625 in 2017 up from £1,383 in 2016.
Between 2010 and 2016, household energy bills increased by 9.2% in real terms, while last year all of the "big six" energy companies announced dramatic increases to household energy prices. I do not believe such increases are justifiable.
In 2016, a Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the energy market found that 70% of big six customers are on expensive default standard variable tariffs and that households had been paying £1.4 billion a year more for energy than they would have if the market was working properly. Nearly two years later, I am concerned that the Government's lack of action to tackle our broken energy market has allowed the big six to make ever greater profits, while customers continue to have to pay more.
During the June 2017 General Election, the Prime Minister pledged to introduce a cap on energy bills that would save 17 million households up to £100 a year. Since the Government promised action, however, energy prices have continued to spiral. While it has now brought forward a Bill to introduce an energy price cap, it is extraordinary that it has taken so long for the Government to act. Furthermore, a cap, while necessary and welcome, is simply a temporary sticking plaster - it is vital that the Government also recognises the need to do much more to fix the energy market.
At the General Election, I stood on a manifesto that promised to introduce an immediate emergency price cap to ensure that the average dual-fuel household energy bill remains below £1,000 per year, while we move to a fairer system for bill payers. If such a cap had been in place since 2010, it would have saved the average consumer over £1,149 so far and a further £142 per year in future. I also committed to bringing energy back into public ownership, to make it more affordable and accountable to local communities.