EDF profits spark calls for further energy price cuts

‘BIG six’ energy supplier EDF has fuelled questions over the fairness of its prices after it revealing a jump in profits despite a drop in sales.

The French utility giant, which supplies electricity and gas to around 5.5million residential and business customers, reported underlying earnings of �1.6billion in the UK in 2011, up from �1.4billion the previous year.

However, revenues were down to 8.6billion euros (�7.1billion) in the UK in 2011, from 9.4billion euros (�7.7billion) the previous year, as households used less gas over the milder winter.

EDF said underlying earnings were boosted by increased nuclear output and a drop in wholesale gas prices, but consumer groups said this would leave customers confused.

Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, said: “EDF Energy’s UK profits have risen despite lower energy use in the milder winter. This will leave many customers wondering whether energy prices can, and should, be cut further.”

She went on: “We need successful, profitable companies. But consumers need to know big profit margins are not being made needlessly at their expense.”

EDF cut its gas bills by 5% from February 7 after wholesale costs fell by 9% and sparked a series of reductions by rival suppliers. However, the cut came after EDF increased gas tariffs by 15.4% in November.

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Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “When people see energy suppliers announcing increased profits despite a mild winter, they’re bound to question whether they’re paying a fair price.”

He added: “The energy companies must raise their game and demonstrate their commitment to giving consumers the best price for their energy. If they do, it could be the start of a better relationship with their customers.”

The results come a week before British Gas owner Centrica publishes its annual figures, in which it is expected to reveal a 4% increase in adjusted operating profits to �2.5billion.

However, the company is expected to reveal a 25% drop in British Gas profits to �550million, which would be the lowest level in three years.

British Gas cut bills for more than five million customers in January by announcing an average 5% drop in its standard electricity tariff.

The price cut came six months after the company increased gas bills by 18% and electricity by 16%.