BThe energy industry of Ritain is about to trigger. In a stroke, 15 million homes face one of the steepest energy bills in years. Households are facing some of the highest energy costs ever seen in the UK. It's a far cry from the first price hike in a market overrun by rising costs, but it's the first one not due to the greed of the energy company.

"No one likes a price hike, and believe me, I'm not announcing it," says Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem. It may be easier to criticize energy companies for "unjustified" price increases and "rip-off" tariffs than to take a 1.7 billion pound slap in the hip pockets.

This is a role that regulators are reluctant to take on. It announced …