You could be one of 22 million people waking up to a higher energy bill come 1 April, owing to today's announcement that the energy price cap on certain deals is rising by 54% a year.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced a range of measures to help those impacted by the rise, worth around £9bn.
These include a £200 'discount' on energy bills for all households from October 2022, to be repaid in instalments, and a £150 council tax rebate in April 2022 for those in council tax bands A-D.
It's not possible to make big savings on your gas and electricity payments right now, but there are several things you can do to limit the impact. Read on to find out more.
The newly announced price cap applies to certain types of energy deals:
These are all more or less the same thing. If you haven't switched energy supplier or tariff in a while, or took no action when your last fixed deal ended, you'll be on a default, or variable tariff and in line for a price rise this April.
While energy companies don't have to increase their prices on variable tariffs to match the cap, they typically do so. Given the difficult state of the energy market, with soaring wholesale prices and company closures, we're expecting most providers to up their prices.
Prepayment meter tariffs are also covered by the price cap, and these are set to rise£708 from £1,309 to £2,017.
If you're currently on a fixed deal (one that has a set contract length) then you won't be affected by the price cap changes for at least the length of that contract.
The price cap is not an absolute limit on your bills. Instead, it's a set cap on your rates, or the amount you pay per unit of electricity or gas that you use, plus the standing rate you pay to have your home connected to the grid.
That means the exact amount extra you'll have to pay depends on how much power you use.
As an example, a household that uses a medium amount of gas and electricity (defined as 12,000kWh gas and 2,900kWh electricity a year) can expect their bill to rise by around £693 a year. That's around £58 extra a month.
The same household paying via prepayment can expect around £708 to be added to their bill each year, or £59 a month.
If you pay when you receive your energy bills, rather than by direct debit, your bill could go up by £130 each month.
The price cap was introduced in 2019 to ensure that prices for customers who don't switch their energy provider or tariff are fair and reflective of costs. It's a limit on the maximum amount energy suppliers can charge for each unit of gas and electricity a household uses, as well as the maximum daily standing charge.
The price cap is applicable to providers' standard and default tariffs, so if you're on a fixed-term energy deal it doesn't apply to you directly. It's set every six months (in April and October) by the government and calculated by energy regulator Ofgem.
A £58-a-month increase to your bills is hardly a small shift. If you're worried about your bills, there are a few things you can try:
Talk to your energy supplier if you can't afford to pay your bills. They have to treat customers fairly and agree a payment plan with you that you can manage.
Options can include a payment break, payment reduction, additional time to pay, access to hardship funds, and being added to its priority services register (if you're in a vulnerable situation).
Government support announced for energy customers
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has revealed details of a £9bn package of support in light of surging energy bills. It consists of three elements:
He told the House of Commons that the announcement would provide an extra £350 to the 'vast majority of households'.
Lisa Barber, Which? home products and services editor, said:
'The sheer scale of these energy bill increases will cause real concern and fear for families and households up and down the country, where people are already struggling to pay their bills due to the rising cost of living.
'The government's support measures will bring some relief to people, but they need to be judged on whether financial help is getting to the most vulnerable. Many more people will be dragged into fuel poverty once prices rise in April, so the government and energy firms should ensure that support reaches those who need it ahead of this.
'For those on a fixed-rate tariff, it's best to stay put as you're unlikely to find a cheaper deal. However, if you're on an out-of-contract tariff, now that the price cap has been announced, it's worth keeping an eye out in case better deals become available in the coming weeks.'
How UK energy companies respond to today's announcements remains to be seen, but there's speculation that it could result in more energy tariffs returning to the market.