An estimated 45 million people in the UK will be forced into fuel poverty and struggle to pay energy bills this winter, new research has found.
Eighteen million families - two-thirds of all UK households - will be plunged into financial difficulty by January due to soaring inflation.
It comes after the inflation rate hit a 40-year record high, rising to 10.1% in July.
A surge in prices is expected to peak in the autumn along with household energy bills, following the price cap rise in October.
The study, conducted by the University of York, found that the region hardest hit will be Northern Ireland with 76.3% of families battling to make ends meet.
This was followed by Scotland at 72.8%, then the West Midlands at 70.9% and Yorkshire and the Humber at 70.6%.
The research, published by The Guardian newspaper, further stated that 86.4% of pensioner couples will fall into fuel poverty.
Single parent households with two more children will bare the brunt at 90.4%.
Calls for energy price freeze
Ed Miliband, shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, has called for an energy price freeze in response to the report, saying it is needed to address the “national emergency” of inflation.
The Labour MP wrote on Twitter: “These shocking figures show the full scale of the national emergency that could unfold unless the Conservative government acts to freeze energy bills.
“We simply cannot allow the British people to suffer in this way. We need an energy price freeze.”
His comments echoed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s proposal announced on Monday (15 August) when he said the government should freeze the energy price cap at its current level of £1,971 for six months from October, saving the average household £1,000.
The cost of living crisis has put further pressure on the government and the Conservative leadership elections as new figures showed the Consumer Prices Index inflation (CPI) reached 10.1% in July - a worse than expected rise.
Pressure mounted further on the Tory candidates and government on Wednesday (17 August) with the resignation of Ofgem director Christine Farnish.
Why did Ofgem’s director resign?
Ms Farnish said that she had concerns the energy regulator was failing to effectively protect struggling households.
She told The Times that the watchdog had not “struck the right balance between the interests of consumers and the interests of suppliers”.
It is understood Ms Farnish’s resignation is linked to Ofgem’s decision to change the methodology of the price cap to allow suppliers to recover some of the high energy “backwardation” costs sooner rather than later.
The energy regulator has faced criticism in recent months for not doing enough to protect families during the global energy crisis.