Scottish Power was the first major supplier to announce next price increases last month, which are due to come into effect on August 1. These will add 19% to the cost of gas and 10% to the cost of electricity, pushing the average cost of an annual dual fuel bill for 2.4 million customers up by £175.

British Gas was next to follow suit, announcing plans to hike the prices of its standard gas by 18% and electricity by 16% from 18 August. As a result, British Gas bill payers will see almost £200 added to the average cost of a yearly bill.

Now SSE has become the third supplier to raise prices later this summer. Customers will see gas prices increase by an average of 18% for gas and 11% for electricity from 14 September.

The average dual fuel customer with SSE will see bills increase by around £171 a year once the increases come into effect. SSE has promised that following this increase, bills won’t rise again until August 2012 at the earliest.

A spokesman for SSE said: “Events such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and political upheaval in the Middle East, and longer-term trends such as the fast-increasing energy needs of the Asian economies, have contributed to the rise in wholesale energy prices.

Ofgem has characterised this as ‘turmoil in global energy markets during 2011’. The UK is increasingly exposed to such turmoil because its own oil and gas resources are declining.”

But there are things you can do to ensure your energy bills don’t increase dramatically – we take a look at how making a few simple changes now can drive down costs.

Lock into a fixed tariff

Consumers worried about how they will be able to afford higher energy prices need to switch to a fixed tariff now, as the best deals are likely to disappear fast.

Scott Byrom, energy expert at said; "The announcement from SSE comes as no surprise and consumers now need to get on the front foot and switch to the best fixed priced energy tariff for their usage level and area they live in, in order to protect against further increases. It is only a matter of time before we see the remaining energy providers will follow suit. In the face of rising prices, opting for the market leading fixed product Fix Saver v2, from EDF Energy with average bills of £1,009 is the best way to safeguard against further price increases from the energy giants.

"SSE customers changing to the best priced fixed tariff today could see average annual savings of around £256. Shopping around using a price comparison site for the best value energy product is vital, and I urge everyone worried about the cost of their bills to act quickly as the best priced products are unlikely to be available for long."

For the many households already struggling to cope financially, knowing that their energy bills are fixed for at least the next 12 months will provide valuable peace of mind.

Don’t hang around though, as now that several providers have announced price hikes, the most competitive fixed rate tariffs are unlikely to be available for long.

Cut energy costs

Switching to a fixed tariff isn’t the only thing you can do to minimise the impact of energy price rises.

Being more energy efficient around your home can also reduce your energy costs. For example, every one degree you can turn your thermostat down by could save you up to about £50 a year in energy costs – so turn it down by just a couple of degrees could cut as much as £100 off your energy bills. You should also make sure your hot water and heating isn’t left on longer than you need it.

Don’t leave appliances on standby when you are not around either. The typical home wastes £40 a year on average by switching appliances onto standby mode rather than off completely.

These simple measures can really help you keep bills down, so think carefully about what you can do to save energy around your home.

Getting into good habits now before the winter months arrive when our energy usage increases sharply will help ensure you don’t start next year with a nasty bill shock.

Find out more about saving energy in the article ‘How to save energy and cut bills’.