Centrica cooks on gas as profits rise

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Fury over recent utility bills increases will be stoked today when the owner of British Gas reveals that profits from its residential operation are up by quarter.

Centrica’s British Gas Residential is expected to post a 26 per cent increase in profits to £352m in the first half of 2012 as the UK’s biggest energy supplier benefited from higher prices and the cool start to summer.

British Gas, which has 16 million customer accounts, dropped its standard electricity prices by 5 per cent in January but they are still higher than a year ago after a 16 per cent rise last August, when gas bills also went up by 18 per cent.

The profits rise means British Gas Residential made nearly £2m profit a day, about £3.70 per household per month.

The sum is likely to rekindle anger over energy companies as consumers struggle to cope since the average dual fuel bill reached £1,310 a year – at least £200 more than two years ago.

One household in five is now in fuel poverty – when 10 per cent of disposable income goes to pay for electricity and heating.

Energy firms have been accused of quickly passing on rising wholesale costs but being slow to drop prices when they fall.

Last year unseasonably warm weather hit demand.

A Consumer Focus spokesman said: “We have long questioned whether drops in wholesale costs find their way through to household bills.

“Only weeks ago, British Gas was hinting at further bill increases.”