Gas prices could rise by up to15%

Prices at British Gas, the country's largest energy supplier, will rise by at least 15 per cent within weeks, according to press speculation.

With Centrica's retail energy business, the owner of Scottish Gas and British Gas, reportedly hit by the sharp rise in wholesale gas prices in the past year, industry sources are forecasting the firm's 16 million customers will see their utility bills rise sharply in the coming weeks.

UK forward gas prices for delivery in January 2009 stood at £1.13 per therm last week, up from 50p per therm in the same period last year.

The price of gas is closely linked to crude oil, which leapt to a new record of nearly $146.69 a barrel last week.

Analysts said Centrica suffers from a shortage of its own gas and power supplies, forcing it to pay premium prices for wholesale imports.

Gas prices are also being forced higher because of concerns over of a shortage of North Sea supplies this winter.

Britain's other big power firms such as E.on, EdF, Scottish Power, N-Power and Scottish and Southern Energy - are all expected to raise prices over the next few months ? but Centrica is expected to be among the first to raise prices.

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