Soaring energy bills will eat up nearly half the annual state pension by next year, forcing millions of pensioners into poverty.
In the average home, gas and electricity will cost £3,729 a year from next April, experts at Cornwall Insight have estimated this week, up from the current £1,971 a year.
By next spring, up to 46pc of the state pension is expected to go directly on heating homes, as the average retiree on the basic state payout receives £8,185 a year. Until last October, energy charges took up just 17pc of the average state pension.
The Winter Fuel Payment will be doubled from £300 to £600 for more than eight million pensioner households ahead of this winter. However, this will cover just one sixth of the average annual energy bill.
Rebecca O’Connor, of stockbroker Interactive Investor, said the growing proportion of pensioners’ income consumed by energy bills had become unsustainable.
“The squeeze it places on the household budget, particularly as food prices rise too, is just going to be impossible to manage through winter and into next spring,” she said.
Even pensioners living in a couple will pay a third of their combined state pension income on energy bills, according to Age UK.
Caroline Abrahams, of the charity, said the astronomical rise in bills had created a “frightening situation” for those who rely on the state pension.
“Keeping warm is really important for older people – it’s not just a matter of avoiding discomfort, for those with serious health conditions it can make the difference between life and death,” she said.
Annual energy bills are expected to leap £1,388 higher from October alone, a rise that will cost more than two whole months’ worth of the average pension payment made by the Government.
Four in 10 people over the age of 66 rely on the state pension as their main source of income, according to Government agency the Money and Pensions service.