We may not know what kind of winter we will have but we do know that millions of us will have to pay more for our fuel thanks to the announcement from the energy firm SSE that it is raising its gas and electricity bills by an average of 8.2%.
Many customers already struggle to meet the high cost of fuel; this announcement, which amounts to around £100 on the average bill, will only make it harder.
The reasons for the rise being offered up by SSE are similar to the ones we heard last year when it raised prices by 9% - just before a cold spell kicked in. The company blames the wholesale price of energy, although its main strategy seems to be to blame Government levies and compulsory low-carbon energy schemes. The only practical advice it has for its customers is to call up for advice on how to make homes more energy efficient.
Insulating your home helps reduce bills, but the fundamental reason for many Scottish families finding it hard to heat their homes is not a lack of lagging - it is the combination of low incomes and rising energy bills. The problem is particularly acute in Scotland, where the winters are colder and the bills higher (in this regard, the fact Scotland will see the smallest price rises is some small comfort).
The response of the Coalition Government to the crisis has been disappointing. For years, it has been promising to get tough but all Energy Minister Ed Davey had to say on the matter yesterday was that the rise was unwelcome. David Cameron's summit with the energy companies was also disappointing and amounted to not much more than a finger-wagging at the big six firms.
Firmer action is needed if the Government and the regulator Ofgem are to break up what is effectively operating as a cartel - six firms raising and, much more rarely, lowering their prices almost in unison. Part of the reason they can do this is that they operate behind a veil. Not even Ofgem knows what the companies pay for gas and electricity at any time and this makes proper scrutiny difficult. It is also unfair to customers because, whatever SSE says about having to pay for low-carbon schemes, most of our bills still go on the cost of buying energy on the wholesale market.
Recognising that this wholesale market is no longer fit for purpose or functioning in the interests of consumers would be a useful first step forward. Labour leader Ed Miliband's suggestion of a 20-month freeze on bills is also a daring contribution to the debate, although the details of how it could work remain unclear.
Ofgem also has much more work to do. As winter approaches, it should put more pressure on suppliers to help those on lower incomes by, for example, making sure they are being offered the lowest tariffs. Tariffs are also still far too confusing.
As for the energy companies, they have to recognise that they operate not only for their shareholders but also their customers, particularly those who are going to find it hard to heat their homes in the cold months to come.
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