Millions of households could be on track for lower energy bills as the last four of the big six suppliers pledged to follow the lead of British Gas and Scottish & Southern (SSE).
Facing a grilling from MPs about record electricity and gas charges yesterday, executives from Scottish Power, RWE npower, E.ON and EDF all said they were set to bring down bills. But, despite the barb from the chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Elliot Morley, that "fine words butter no parsnips", the companies pleaded commercial sensitivity and would not be drawn on when prices might be dropped, or by how much.
Jim Macdonald, the commercial director of E.ON's retail business, said his company was "very optimistic". Representatives from EDF and Scottish Power also said "soon". Only RWE npower equivocated, with Guy Johnson, its director of regulation, saying his group had worked hard on social tariff packages. "There has been a massive investment in vulnerable customers and that we will see that coming through in 2008, although maybe not in headline cuts," he said.
Gas and electricity bills have shot up by 50 per cent and 27 per cent respectively in the past year, and have remained high despite wholesale prices dropping by nearly half since last summer. Suppliers blame the time lag on their forward-buying strategies
British Gas is committed to bringing down prices by 10 per cent later this month, and by the end of March, SSE will cut electricity charges by 9 per cent and gas by 4 per cent.