ENERGY companies are raising gas and electricity prices again, meaning yet more misery for those struggling to pay their bills. Many pensioners face the prospect of spending about a quarter of their income on basic utility services - and that's on top of the increasingly unaffordable council tax.
While political tension in the Middle East and high demand in Asia are clearly partly responsible for high wholesale energy prices, government policies, driven by an environmentalist agenda, are making a difficult situation far worse.
An increasing share of bills is being used to subsidise uneconomic renewable energy, such as wind power. By 2010, the Government's renewables obligation will add £1bn a year to electricity prices. Proposals by the European Commission to introduce legal targets for green energy are likely to lead to bill increases of 10-15 per cent by 2020.
Extra expenditure will also be needed to integrate wind power into the national grid. The planned offshore locations tend to be distant from the existing network so new capacity will be required. This means that stretches of coastline are likely to be scarred by unsightly pylons, or that consumers will subsidise the costly process of burying power cables underground.
A further problem is that wind power is hi