* Latest of "big six" power firms to hike prices
* Blames regulatory costs
* Power price rises hot topic ahead of election next year
By Sarah Young
LONDON, Oct 24 British energy supplier
ScottishPower, owned by Spanish utility Iberdrola, said
it would raise its household charges for gas and electricity by
an inflation-busting 8.6 percent, the latest company to do so as
a political row intensifies.
Energy costs have shot to the top of the political agenda in
Britain since the opposition Labour Party promised to freeze
bills for 20 months if it won the next election in 2015 and
after several energy firms unveiled sharp price increases.
ScottishPower, like three competitors who have already
raised prices, blamed increasing costs, singling out the burden
of adhering to government social and environmental policies.
Iberdrola on Wednesday also cited regulatory issues when it
warned its profit would fall this year.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, under pressure to
regain the initiative in the energy debate, said on Wednesday he
would cut the green taxes which have inflated prices, although
he is yet to give details of his plan.
RWE npower, Centrica and SSE have
already raised their charges, leaving EDF Energy and
E.ON the only two of Britain's "big six" energy
suppliers yet to do so.
Analysts say all the companies face the same rise in costs
from government policies, climbing wholesale prices as well as a
jump in the cost of using transmission systems, and expect the
remaining two providers to follow suit.
Energy prices in Britain have already risen by 24 percent
over the last four years, according to regulator Ofgem, ramping
up pressure on household finances at a time of wage stagnation,
and prompting Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to make his price
British lawmakers will next Tuesday quiz energy company
bosses, including ScottishPower's chief executive of retail and
generation Neil Clitheroe, over the big rises in household gas
and electricity prices.
ScottishPower's average price hike of 8.6 percent, more than
three times the rate of inflation, was lower than npower and
Centrica's increases of 10.4 percent and 9.2 percent
respectively but above SSE's 8.2 percent rise.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey said in a statement that consumers
should shop around for competitive deals, highlighting that
there are 15 independent energy suppliers outside the big six,
which supply more than 90 percent of households in Britain.
The extra charges will add 113 pounds to the average bill of
customers receiving both gas and electricity from ScottishPower,
Separately, the company was fined 8.5 million pounds earlier
in the week for mis-selling energy packages.