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Gas cut-offs soar as prices grow

300,000 homes face disconnection this year - while EDF warns that an electricity price hike is 'inevitable'

THE NUMBER of homes having their gas supply disconnected because of a failure to pay has multiplied by 30 in just two years.

GDF estimates that 300,000 homes will be cut off this year - it has already made 110,000 disconnections since January.

The number of disconnections has grown from 10,000 in 2008 to 100,000 last year.

France's energy ombudsman, Denis Merville, estimates that 3.4 million households are at risk of slipping behind with their bill payments, with energy costs making up more than 10% of their total budget.

Gas prices rose 10% in April, adding an extra €85 a year to the bills for households that consume the most.

THey will rise a further 4.7% in July for the 6.3 million homes that use the fuel for heating. Households that only use gas for cooking will see prices rise 2.1%.

Meanwhile, EDF has warned that the cost of electricity will inevitably rise this year.

The power firm's executive director Pierre Lederer said a price hike was "unavoidable" given the growing cost of producing electricity and the need to keep investing in the network.

He did not go into details about how significant the price rise would be, but the Energy Regulation Committee recently suggested that an 11.4% increase was likely this year, followed by 3.5% in 2011.

Former EDF chief executive Pierre Gadonneix caused a stir last summer when he suggested that prices should rise by 20% over three years.

The energy firm says it will increase its investment in nuclear power in France from €500m to €2bn a year.

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