This morning (July 8) British Gas customers discovered their gas would rocket by an average 18% and electricity by 16% on average.

The changes, which are due to come into effect from August 18, prompted an angry response from energy minister Chris Huhne.

However, while Mr Huhne is working hard to boost smaller energy producers, he seems powerless to prevent the ‘Big Six’ putting up prices.

On British Gas’ decision Mr Huhne said: “I refuse to stand by and watch this happen.

“The UK electricity market has to change so we escape the cycle of fossil fuel addiction.

“Alternatives, like renewables and nuclear power, must be allowed to become the dominant component of our energy mix.

“Only radical reform now will give us the best chance in the long run of keeping the lights on at a price that doesn’t wreck our economy over and over again.”

In a statement this morning British Gas said it ‘recognises the difficulties’ customers are facing.

But its decision follows steep rises in wholesale costs, which it says has increased 30% since last winter because of higher global demand for gas, driven by increased consumption in Asia and the impact on supply of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

British Gas managing director, Phil Bentley, said: “We know there is never a good time to raise prices, but we are buying in a global energy market and have to pay the market rate.

“Rising wholesale costs is an issue facing all energy suppliers. Our advice to customers is to wait and see what happens in the energy retail market as a whole before making any decisions about switching supplier.

“In the meantime, they should get in touch with us and ask about the simple ways we’re offering to help keep bills under control.”

Luke Walsh

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