Quarter of a million Welsh households will be in fuel poverty by April, charity warns

National Energy Action Cymru says households will be "devastated" by a £100 million increase in energy bills. Credit: PA

The rising cost of energy bills will leave more than a quarter of a million households in Wales in fuel poverty by April, a charity has warned.

National Energy Action says over 280,000 households will be "devastated" by a £100 million increase in energy bills which they have warned could "even cause premature deaths."

The charity is calling for a new mandatory social tariff to help make energy more affordable for low-income households.

Ben Saltmarsh, Head of Wales at National Energy Action, has said that customers who use "heat now, pay later" are more likely to end up in debt.

29 energy companies went bust in the last year amid soaring global gas prices. Credit: PA

'These increases could even cause pre-mature deaths'

Ben Saltmarsh said: "More than half of all domestic pre-payment meter customers who have incomes below £18,000 per year and are much more likely to be in significant debt to their energy supplier but will see their bills swell by over £100 million per year"

Last year Public Health Wales warned there is a damaging overlap between the health impacts of living in a cold home and Covid-19.

Pre-existing chronic medical conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and heart disease are particularly badly affected by a cold home.

Ben Saltmarsh added: "The scale of these increases will not only devastate people's finances but could worsen physical or mental health and even cause premature deaths.

"We also want the energy regulator Ofgem to correct their previous decision to reduce price protection for vulnerable pre-payment customers. This has already had a clear and damaging impact on vulnerable consumers in Wales, who would have been £60-£100 better off had this decision not been taken.

"Ofgem needs to provide deeper price protection or a new mandatory social tariff to help make energy more affordable for low-income energy customers across Wales".

In the UK an elderly person dies every seven minutes during the cold, winter months. Credit: Press Association Image

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, said: “We know this rise will be extremely worrying for many people, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet, and Ofgem will ensure energy companies support their customers in any way they can.

“The energy market has faced a huge challenge due to the unprecedented increase in global gas prices, a once in a 30-year event, and Ofgem’s role as energy regulator is to ensure that, under the price cap, energy companies can only charge a fair price based on the true cost of supplying electricity and gas.

“Ofgem is working to stabilise the market and over the longer term to diversify our sources of energy which will help protect customers from similar price shocks in the future.”

A HM Treasury spokesperson said: “We understand that people are concerned about pressures on household budgets which is why we have set out a generous package of support, with a non-repayable £150 council tax rebate from April and a further reduction of £200 on energy bills in October.

“The energy bills reduction is not a loan to households or suppliers and will help people manage the increase in energy bills by spreading the increased costs over a few years, so they are more manageable.”