Here we go again - British Gas - owner Centrica is to raise its average prices by 6% from today (Friday 16th November 2012), they have stated that the price rises are due to costs that are out of its control. Meanwhile Centrica, with 15.8 million customers, says that required investments and measures to meet carbon reduction targets have added about £50 to the average bill. The company, which recently issued a trading update, stated that wholesale gas prices were now 13% higher this winter than last. The company will report its full-year profit figures in February 2013.
Centrica stated that average UK residential gas consumption for the first 10 months of 2012 was 9% higher than for the same period of 2011, while average electricity consumption was 1% lower. On Wednesday (14th November 2012) SSE (one of the UK's biggest energy suppliers) reported a 38% rise in half-year profits. They made £397.5 million pounds profit in the six months to the end of September, this compares with £287.4 million in the same period last year. SSE, along with most of the members of the big 6 energy cartel, raised its domestic gas and electricity prices by an average of 9% one month ago.
Plaid has long voiced its concerns over allegations that the 'Big Six' energy companies have been manipulating wholesale gas prices in an attempt to save millions of pounds. The allegations, brought forward by a whistleblower, are currently being investigated by City watchdog the Financial Services Authority, whose findings could trigger a crisis of confidence in the energy sector similar to that in the banking industry following the rate-fixing Libor scandal. Plaid is concerned that the people of Wales are suffering disproportionately as a result of the 'Big Six' monopoly due to the fact that they're less likely to switch energy suppliers and therefore receive higher bills than anywhere else in the UK.
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said:
"These allegations against some of the 'Big Six' energy companies are deeply troubling and hold the potential to prompt a fresh crisis of confidence in yet another sector of British society.
"Just as was the case with the Libor scandal where the inter-bank lending rate was fixed, claims that wholesale gas prices have been manipulated raise serious questions over scrutiny and transparency.
"Most of the 'Big Six' energy companies are already under fire having declared intentions to push up their prices before the end of the year. This will see ordinary families having to keep an even closer eye on their budgets while the eldest and most vulnerable face an increasing risk of hypothermia or malnutrition as they're forced to choose between heating and eating.
"It is clear that the competitive market fails the neediest within our society. The Party of Wales believes that utilities should be operated on a not-for-distributable-profit model, like Glas Cymru, where profits are reinvested rather than pocketed by shareholders.