October 26, 2012 / 1:15 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-EDF Energy hikes UK retail energy bills by 10.8 pct

* EDF hike marks last in a string of recent rises

* Government urges customers to switch suppliers

By Oleg Vukmanovic and Mohammed Abbas

LONDON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - UK energy supplier EDF Energy on Friday followed rivals' price hikes, announcing a rise in retail gas and electricity tariffs of 10.8 percent from Dec. 7.

Like competitors Scottish Power, Centrica, RWE npower and SSE, it blamed the increase on higher wholesale and energy distribution costs and the costs of government renewable and energy efficiency schemes.

EDF, whose rise compared with an average increase this winter of 7 percent, said its tariffs were still lower overall than the other four suppliers.

Among Britain's big six energy suppliers E.ON alone pledged in May to freeze prices for residential customers, despite rising wholesale prices.

Consumer group uSwitch estimated that the increases would add an extra 753 million pounds to household energy costs and tip 314,000 more homes into so-called fuel poverty, where more than 10 percent of household income is spent on utility bills.

It said 7 million homes would be in fuel poverty this winter.

"This is the final hammer blow for energy bills this side of Christmas," said uSwitch's director of consumer policy Ann Robinson.

"Consumers now face a winter of rationing their energy usage - many will be forced to turn their heating down or off for fear of the impact of these hikes," Robinson said.

Wholesale UK gas prices have risen 24 percent over the past two months and electricity prices have followed a similar trend, mainly due to jitters over imports from Norway and a lower supply of shipped liquefied gas.

The government said it intends to use the law to help consumers find the lowest energy tariffs and urged them to switch between suppliers for the best deal.

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