Energy prices paid by most British households are set to rise 80 percent this fall, putting further pressure on consumers squeezed by higher prices and posing a daunting challenge for the next prime minister.
A big jump in energy bills had been forecast for weeks, but the specific numbers released Friday morning by Britain’s energy regulator — a typical British household would pay 3,549 pounds (about $4,200) over a year for electricity and natural gas, from the current £1,971 — hit like a thunderclap in a country already reeling from double-digit inflation.
It is the latest economic blow to European consumers and businesses as the war in Ukraine stretches already tight markets for energy.
54 percent rise in April.
The news of the price increases came during a moment of deep political drift in Britain, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson preparing to leave office and his Conservative Party preoccupied by a contest to replace him. Mr. Johnson has left it for his successor to craft a response to the skyrocketing energy costs.
The front-runner to replace Mr. Johnson, Liz Truss, has promised targeted aid to help those hardest hit by higher bills, though she has steadfastly refused to detail her plans. She and her opponent, Rishi Sunak, both reject more sweeping measures, like using state subsidies to freeze the energy price cap for two years.
Consumer prices in Britain rose 10.1 percent last month from a year earlier, the fastest pace in 40 years, squeezing household budgets. The Bank of England has predicted that inflation would peak at 13 percent in October as the new energy prices turn up in household bills. Other estimates are higher; analysts at Citi have said the rate could reach as high as 18 percent next year.
“The pressure on stretched households will only intensify, and the calls for support will get ever louder,” wrote Martin Young, a utility analyst at Investec, a financial services firm, in a recent note to clients. Mr. Young expects another jump, to £4,210, in January.
The price hikes and how to deal with them have become a hot subject of political discourse in Britain and across Europe. While the British government has offered a package that includes £400 per household to help residents with soaring bills, a wide range of politicians, consumer advocates and energy executives now say that more forceful intervention is needed to cushion households from the surge in energy costs.
Recently, Britain’s opposition Labour Party said that it would freeze energy tariffs where they are now, paying part of the £29 billion cost by increasing the so-called windfall taxes that the Conservative government imposed earlier this year on oil and gas giants operating in the North Sea.