Rising energy bills has beaten out unemployment, inflation and taxes as the biggest concern for UK consumers according to recent findings from YouGov’s Household
Economic Activity Tracker (HEAT).

The nationally representative tracker asked consumers to rate out of ten the biggest perceived threat and the biggest perceived benefit to their household’s standard of living in the future out of six economic measures: unemployment, energy prices, inflation, taxes, state benefits, and interest rates.

The results show that the British public is acutely concerned about escalating energy bills, identifying them as the most significant threat economic well-being with an overall rating of 7.8. Unemployment (7.4) and rising inflation (6.9) were deemed as the second and third largest threats. The news follows Centrica's confirmation that British Gas will be rising its energy prices by an average of 6 percent due to the increase in cost of wholesale gas.

Commenting on the findings, Joe Twyman, YouGov Director of Political and Social Research, said: “The UK’s consumers are aware that Britain’s major energy suppliers are all expected to raise prices over the next few months, and the results of our survey clearly indicate they are very concerned about the impact that change will have on their household’s finances. The degree to which consumers are worried about energy prices compared to things like unemployment is particularly interesting and is a reflection of the fact that the rise in energy prices this winter in something that is going to affect everyone.”

Importantly, as Alasdair Grainger, Head of the feed-in tariff, made clear recently during his seminar speech at Solar Power UK, ministers are very aware of the public’s attitude towards rising bills and are keen to be seen to actively do everything in their power to control them – including minimising the cost of the feed-in tariff and renewable obligation schemes.

George Osborne has recently come in for renewed criticism for his vision of a gas-led Britain after John Cridland, Director of the CBI, questioned the UK’s commitment to gas, stating: “Over-reliance on new gas would leave us exposed to global price and supply fluctuations and jeopardise our carbon targets, so we need to build more of everything, including renewables, nuclear and CCS.” Cridland joins an increasing number of green thinkers who have warned that the UK's commitment to unabated gas use will lead to unsustainably high energy costs for the UK.

Brian Smithers, Director, Rexel UK commented: “It is no surprise that consumers are concerned about rising energy prices given winter’s on our doorstep and the continued squeeze on household finances. It is worrying that, despite these concerns, the majority of UK adults have no idea what they spend on energy. Rexel recently commissioned its own You Gov survey, which found that 81 percent of UK adults who receive energy bills do not know exactly how much they spend. With figures like these, it’s no surprise that people fear rising energy bills more than unemployment and taxes.

“Education and better monitoring  technology could massively reduce bills. With the right knowledge and tools consumers will be empowered to make simple alterations to their behaviour to reduce consumption – which is not only better for their bank accounts but for the environment as well!”