The owner of British Gas has reported a 3.2% rise in half-year profits following a boost in gas consumption during the cold winter months.
Centrica saw profits from its residential energy arm increase to £356 million from £345 million over the same period last year after gas usage rose by 13% compared to 2012.
British Gas residential profits contributed to a 9% overall increase in earning for Centrica from £1.45 billion to £1.58 billion. Revenues were up 14% to £13.7 billion for the company, which includes activities in energy generation and storage.
The news is expected to attract criticism as the energy supplier raised its gas and electricity tariffs by 6% in November last year. The announcement comes a day after energy firm EDF Energy also reported pre-tax profits of £903 million.
Chief Executive Sam Laidlaw said: “With our customers using more gas to stay warm during the unusually cold winter, we’re doing everything we can to help them keep their energy costs under control and make bills simpler and clearer. We are also delivering for our shareholders, enabling us to continue to grow the business and invest to secure energy supplies for the future.”
Centrica claims it is facing higher costs for environmental obligations and network charges and is working with local authorities to meet its responsibilities under the new Energy Company Obligation (ECO) programme – aimed at helping low income households. Centrica said the cost of complying with the scheme would be £1.4 billion by the time it ends in 2015.
The power firm has introduced a ‘Tariff Check’ where it aims to contact customers every six months and help them check they are on the “most appropriate” tariff. It currently has five tariffs and expects to move down to four in line with Ofgem’s recommendations by the end of the year. It also announced plans to end auto roll-over contracts earlier this year for its business customers.