EDF Energy bills
EDF Energy has increased its electricity and gas bills by 3.9% (Reuters)

EDF has become the latest energy giant to put up its prices, leaving consumers facing higher electricity and gas bills for the winter ahead.

The energy giant, one of the so-called "big six" which dominate the consumer market, said its prices will rise by 3.9% from January 2014. This is lower than the other four in the Big Six which have increased their prices, such as Centrica and SSE, but still well above UK wages growth of around 1%.

It said this would mean an extra £49 on its average standard variable price per year, bringing it to £1,300 annually. EDF claims this will be between £80 and £96 cheaper than its nearest competitors.

Yet another increase in energy bills comes amid a fierce debate around the industry, which has been accused by energy secretary Ed Davey of viewing British consumers as "cash cows". Labour leader Ed Miliband has said, if elected in 2015, he would freeze consumers' energy bills for two years.

"The best way to help customers is for us to keep our prices as low as possible. I know that price rises are always unwelcome, but we have taken the first step to show what can be done if rising costs are tackled head-on," said EDF Energy Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz.

"Energy firms, politicians and consumer groups need to be part of the solution and stand on the side of customers to give them energy at an affordable price. That means operating as efficiently as possible and designing the most cost-effective social and environmental programmes."

Bills must rise, says the energy industry, to pay for increasing costs and much-needed investment in infrastructure. Critics accuse them of increasing bills to bolster profits rather than offset rising costs.

EDF claimed it has managed to keep its wholesale energy costs almost flat, but the increased prices will pay for rising network costs for the distribution of supply, smart metering, obligations to invest in renewables, as well as other costs such as VAT and government measures including the Warm Home Discount.