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Five down, one to go

Energy consumers, rocked by the obscene increases in utility bill prices, are advised to shop around for the best deal, but this is looking an ever fruitless task, as npower increases its prices by 15.7 percent and 7.2 percent respectively, the fifth of the six big energy providers to do so, and adding £134 a year to the average bill.

The German-owned company, blaming the 'volatile global wholesale market' for the increase, said it will increase gas by 15.7% and electricity by 7.2% from 1 October.

Npower follows Scottish Power, British Gas, Scottish & Southern Energy and E.ON in hiking up prices, and like them it blames wholesale price increases as well as the nuclear crisis in Japan, the Arab spring uprisings and the nuclear shutdown in Germany. Now EDF is the only one of the big six not to have raised its prices. But it seems that it will only be a matter of time until it does so.

Kevin Miles, chief commercial officer at RWE npower, said: 'I know it hurts everyone when we put up prices and I wish we didn't have to. With reduced quantities of North Sea gas, we are now forced to buy energy on the volatile global wholesale market. World events have pushed up prices and we believe this trend will continue.'

Miles highlighted that npower's price increases were significantly lower than those introduced by its rivals, which were more like 10% and 19% on gas and electricity respectively.

And although energy prices have risen significantly this year, they are still down about a third from their peak in 2008.

Miles said: 'Although our half year profits were better than last year, they do not begin to match the billions of pounds we are investing in energy for the future.'

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