Cost of living: Ofgem chief’s warning energy bills ‘could be even higher’ than last year as support dropped
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Brits are facing the harsh reality that energy bills will remain high, and could even be higher than last year, as winter and the colder months approach. Speaking before MPs this week, Ofgem’s chief executive Jonathan Brearley said that while international markets are showing more stability than in 2022 amid the Ukraine war, the absence of any significant government support means there will be no relief for struggling families.
Last year the government launched its Energy Bill Support Scheme which gave every UK household a £400 discount on their energy bills, paid in £60 monthly instalments via suppliers over the winter. However, the scheme ended in March 2023 and there are no plans to restart it this winter.
Mr Brearley told the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee: “There is some positive news. The market is more stable, it is less volatile and prices are lower than this time last year. So, this time last year, we were anticipating and seeing prices at around £4,200 a year without government support.
“Last year, the government did step in to give tens of billions of pounds of support to customers. But there is a reality for customers this year, that support is not available. So, for many people, their bills will be very similar this year and possibly worse for some, than they were last year.”
Mr Brearley added that Ofgem, the Government, the industry and consumer groups needed to be “fully focused” on the needs of customers, particurly the most vulnerable, in the run-up to winter. The median household in the UK paid an annualised energy bill of around £2,100 in 2022, even after taking off thousands of pounds of government support.
Without that support bills would have been around twice as high. This year from October 1 until the end of December, annualised energy bills for an average household will be around £1,923.
Asked what the price cap might be in January when it changes next by MPs, Mr Brearley said: “As ever it is always really uncertain. If I had a view we have to accept there is pressure on prices at the moment, so it is possible that we see a rise in January, but by no means certain.”