The Money Advice Trust, a debt advice charity, is warning consumers to pay close attention to their fuel costs after witnessing a rise in the number of people with fuel debts seeking help.
Since 2007, National Debtline, which is run by the trust, has seen a 181 per cent increase in the number of people it advised who carry fuel debts. In the past 12 months, 10 per cent more people have called in with fuel debts.
Joanna Elson, right, the charity's chief executive, said: "Fuel debts have become a major part of our debt landscape and are one of the fastest-growing problems we have witnessed.
"As consumers, we have to pay close attention to how much gas or electricity we use, and whether we have the right tariff – not always an easy decision. It is a concern that so many people have to think whether they can afford to boil a kettle or turn on the heating."
Meanwhile, research from uSwitch has shown that two out of 10 households owe money to their energy supplier, a far higher proportion than those in mortgage arrears.
The warnings of growing energy debt came in the same week that British Gas said it was having to pay 25 per cent more for wholesale gas to be delivered next winter than it paid a year ago. Under regulations introduced earlier this month, energy providers have to give customers 30 days' notice of any price increase.