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Average home heating bill hits 600: Millions plan to ration usage after price surge
Latest figures show average bill is 63 per cent higher than in 200890 per cent of people plan to go without heating to cut costs
Fears some elderly people will die from the cold because they switch heating off to save money
In recent weeks five of the 'big six' energy giants have raised tariffs
14:37 GMT, 28 November 2012
Cold: 90 per cent of people say they will switch off heating to save money this winter
Millions of householders are planning to ration heating this winter after bills surged to shocking new levels.
The latest figures reveal that the average bill is 587 – a startling 63 per cent rise from 360 in 2008.
In the most extreme cases, householders are being forced to choose between spending on heating or food in cold weather.
Last winter, three quarters of all consumers went without heating at some point to cut costs – and 90 per cent are planning to do the same this year.
The price rise falls especially hard on the elderly, who are more likely to be at home in the day and have the heating on longer. The fear is that some who switch off heating to save on bills may die because of the cold.
In recent weeks, five of the ‘big six’ energy giants have raised tariffs by an average of 90 a year. Further rises are likely, to fund the switch from fossil fuel sources to green power and due to high wholesale gas prices.
But some suspect that the six – British Gas, Scottish & Southern Energy(SSE), Eon, EDF, nPower and Scottish Power – are guilty of profiteering. Heating now makes up 44 per cent of a total annual energy cost per household 1,344.
Millions are in ‘fuel poverty’, meaning that they have to spend at least 10 per cent of their income on heat and light.
The elderly are particularly vulnerable, with evidence that deaths rise sharply because the cold exacerbates health problems.
There were 25,700 ‘excess winter deaths’ in England and Wales last year, mainly among vulnerable elderly people, in the four months from December to March.
Conservative estimates suggest at least one tenth of the deaths – 2,570 – were directly caused by fuel poverty and the fact people could not afford to heat their homes.
The heating bill figures were compiled by consumer website uSwitch.com, which said: ‘Last winter three quarters of households went without heating at some point to keep costs down.
‘Soaring energy bills have left almost nine in ten households planning to ration their energy usage this winter.’
‘Recent price hikes from energy suppliers will add 753 million onto energy bills and push another 314,000 households into fuel poverty.
‘Many households will feel that they have little choice but to turn their heating down or off, and by doing so risk gambling with their health.’
Fuel poverty: The price hike falls harder on the elderly who are more likely to be at home during the day