Experts warned householders that their annual gas bills may rise by almost half next winter.
The warning came as Centrica issued its latest trading statement saying that it would take what it called "the necessary action to deliver reasonable margins in the retail business". This statement was taken to indicate that consumers will be hit by a fresh round of price rises later in the year.
This huge rise is the result of soaring forward wholesale gas prices which have risen 77% to 82p a therm, compared with 44p a therm last winter.
Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centrica British Gas’ owner, said "These are the highest prices we’ve ever seen in the run up to a winter period,"
Painting a gloomy outlook for British energy prices he said there was a growing need to import gas from overseas. Last year, he said, about 27 per cent of the gas that Britain required was imported, but this is expected to be about 40% in 2008.
All Britain’s six big energy suppliers – E.ON, npower, Scottish and Southern Energy, ScottishPower, EDF and British Gas all raised gas and electricity prices this year.
Now is the time to consider looking to switch your energy suppliers. Ofgem says half the population has never switched, but it almost certainly worth having a look at as the energy companies are increasingly offering cheaper deals to win new business.
Consumers in the UK are free to choose which company supplies their gas and electricity. There are no changes to the pipes, or wires, all that changes is the price you pay and who you pay it to.
To maximise savings which Energywatch claim can be as high as £340, you may need to buy both your gas and electricity from the same supplier, pay bills by direct debit, or be willing to manage your accounts on the internet and do without a paper bill.
With every household in the country now likely to be hit with average bills of more than £1,200, now is the time to see how much you could save.
As well as looking to switch you may also want to consider ‘capping’ your energy tariff, usually for 2 to 4 years. You will pay more initially but over the longer term you may make greater savings depending on how energy prices move.