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Save money this winter:

energy prices on the move again...


lthough forecasters have given few predictions for the severity - or perhaps the mildness - of this year's winter, keeping the family warm through the next few months is likely to blow a huge hole in many household budgets.

That became evident when SSE announced an unexpected rise of 9% back in August, on both gas and electricity bills, taking effect on October 15. There is a general expectation that other major suppliers among the 'big six' will have new price structures in place by December.

Both E.ON and French-owned EDF will presumably abide by the price freezes on standard tariffs which they promised to hold until the end of 2012, but British Gas and Scottish Power said earlier this year that prices are on an upward trend.

Several factors could have accelerated the SSE move. National Grid, in the middle of a massive spending programme to upgrade outdated infrastructure, has been upping distribution charges to suppliers, while SSE said the increase was "unavoidable" due to the surge in cost of energy on the wholesale markets and increasing green taxes from the Government. Mark Todd, a director at comparison service, says: "The SSE price rise is a total shock and will come as a massive blow to cash-strapped consumers praying for price cuts - not rises.

"We had seen small price cuts lately from smaller suppliers like Ovo” says Todd “but even the cheapest tariffs have jumped by almost 20%. The sad truth is that energy bills just keep on rising."

Todd believes most consumers would be well advised at this stage to lock into fixed-rate tariffs - to guard against future rises for nearly two years ahead. "One of the best deals currently available - First Utility's iSave Fixed v3 December 2013 - costs £1,040 a year," he says.

At rival comparison site, energy expert Scott Byrom echos this advice: "Anyone hoping to keep bills down in this volatile energy market should grab the best value fixed-price tariff.

Switching your gas and

electricity provider takes up to six weeks, so customers languishing on a provider's standard tariff should act fast to ensure they switch to the best deal before further price rises are announced

"This price hike will add £102 a year to the average dual fuel bill paid by monthly direct debit. That's a jump from £1,172 to £1,274. Customers on other payment methods are likely to be hit by even bigger rises.

"A 9% increase is more than three times the price cut which SSE implemented last winter. Sadly, it seems that the energy market is back to its old ways of tiny price cuts followed by big price hikes. "Wholesale prices seemed to have been dropping over the summer months, so we were expecting suppliers to pass these savings on to customers.

The track record suggests other 'big six' suppliers tend to ‘shadow’ each other. When one supplier announces a price rise, it’s often not long before competitors announce similar rises. With some smaller suppliers, the picture may be less clearcut.

"EDF Energy's Blue +Price Promise has average annual bills of £1,058 and is fixed for an impressive 20 months, with no exit fees for anybody who decides to switch to a more competitive deal before the end of their contract.

"Switching your gas and electricity provider takes up to six weeks, so customers languishing on a provider's standard tariff should act fast to ensure they switch to the best deal before further price rises are announced."

Consumers who switch early in a new cycle of rises might be surprised by just how much they can save. On a standard tariff with

British Gas for both and electricity, I am currently on track to pay just over £3,100 in the year until August 8, 2013: that's £2,339 for gas and £765 for electricity.

A five-minute check with found the EDF Blue +Price Promise account could slash that to £2,608, with payment by monthly direct debits and paper bills sent to my home, and prices fixed until April 2014. My apparent saving is already around £500 per year, not including the savings I may be making in the future from price rises, which I’m now protected from due to signing up for a fixed rate tariff.

Prices and deals quoted were correct at the time of going to press but due to the volitility of UK energy prices which can result in unpredictable price changes, readers are advised to contact energy providers themselves for latest offers or visit a price comparison website or energy switch over website such as ‘uSwitch’.

6 Life Begins

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