Energy costs are now the top financial worry for most Britons, ahead of rising food and mortgage repayments, a survey says.

The price of power has risen more than five times faster than household income since 2004, according to the poll from price comparison website uSwitch.com.

Key Points

  • Energy costs top financial worries list
  • 90% of people worried about gas and elec bills
  • 32% say household energy is unaffordable

It says 90% of people are worried about their electricity and gas bills, compared with 77% concerned about food prices and 42% who are anxious about mortgage payments.

Almost a third of consumers (32%) say household energy is unaffordable in the UK.

While the average UK household income has increased by 20% from £32,812 in 2004 to £39,468 today, the average energy bill has risen by 140%, according to uSwitch figures.

Households were spending an average of £522 a year for their energy in 2004, but now pay £1,252 a year — 3.2% of income or double the 1.6% of eight years ago.

That annual bill now accounts for 11% of a couple's basic state pension of £11,175 a year.

Disposable income down

Britons now have an average of £297 of disposable income left each month after all essential household bills are paid, uSwitch.com's figures say.

The study claims 83% of people believe rising energy bills have had an impact on their disposable income, with 17% of these reporting they no longer have any disposable income as a result, and 27% saying energy bills have reduced their disposable income dramatically.

Ann Robinson, uSwitch.com director of consumer policy, says: "In less than 10 years our energy bills have rocketed by 140%. The breakneck speed at which energy prices have sprinted upwards has caught many people unawares.

"Energy now accounts for a significant slice of household income which is why the numbers rationing their energy use have risen so steeply in recent years. But going cold or without is a short-term and potentially harmful fix.

"The fact is that consumers can control how much they spend on energy by making homes more energy-efficient, and paying less for energy by moving to a competitively-priced energy plan.

"Those who are on a low income or benefits could even gain from free insulation from their energy supplier, so it's worth contacting them first to see what financial help you can get."