Profits soar at price-rise energy firm

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Big-six energy supplier Npower risked public anger yesterday after it announced a 34 per cent leap in annual profits in a year in which it raised its average electricity and gas prices.

The company, which supplies more than six million customers in the UK, said profits were £313m in 2011, compared to £232m the previous year.

Npower, which is owned by German utility giant RWE, lifted average tariffs for gas by 15.7 per cent and electricity by 7.2 per cent last October but has since lowered gas bills by five per cent.

The company said the surge in profits was driven by improved income from its power generation assets, as well as higher cost savings; it also invested nearly £1bn in clean energy in the UK.

RWE Npower chief executive Volker Beckers said the company recognised that many people were “concerned” about rising energy costs and Npower would invest in new energy infrastructure to reduce the UK’s exposure to volatile energy prices.

Npower, the fourth-largest provider in the UK, blamed rising wholesale prices on the global market and a commitment to invest in future energy supplies when it raised bills last year.

But the group said its 2011 profits amount to £4.17 a month per customer account and its bills remained below the current national average. Furthermore its total investment in the UK since 2009 – £3.4bn – was now more than Npower’s combined £2bn profits since 2006.