As British Gas profits, are customers getting a fair deal?

The wholesale price of oil and gas is in the gutter and yet profits at British Gas are pointed in the direction of the stars.

It looks bad and the chief executive of Centrica knows it but this morning Iain Conn has been flagging up two price cuts in 2015 and promising that every saving was passed on.

Why has British Gas's average profit per customer risen to £55 (up from £42 in 2014)?

2015 was colder than 2014. We burned more energy and British Gas saw its costs fall as the government rolled back its ECO programme.

Wholesale prices make up less than half of the average energy bill, we're told to look at the bigger picture (see below).

British Gas claims to be "cheaper than 95% of the opposition". 120,000 customers defected in 2015, far fewer than in 2014 (368,000) and British Gas is still Britain's biggest energy supplier by some distance.

Wholesale prices make up less than half of the average energy bill as this infographic by British Gas, using 2015 results, shows. Credit: British Gas

So fair play or are we over-paying?

In July, the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) said the market was broken, competition isn't working and bills are higher than they should be.

The regulator, OFGEM, clearly feels the problem persists, the question then is whether the CMA sees these results as proof that it needs to wade in and impose a temporary price cap? We know it's a stick it's considering wielding.

Away from energy bills, the good news, if you work for Centrica or hold shares, is that after a taking some extremely difficult decisions last year (including cutting 6,000 jobs) Iain Conn clearly believes the business has been right-sized and can now prosper with oil at $35 a barrel.

The more worrying news, for all of us, is that Centrica isn't building. Britain needs a new generation of power plants and to decarbonise.

The last remaining coal plants will be switched off by 2025, we need nuclear, gas and renewable generation to replace them.

Centrica's chief executive Iain Conn promises every saving was passed on to customers. Credit: PA

Historically Centrica has been one of the big electricity generators. How much is it currently investing? "Nothing," says Iain Conn.

The incentive isn't there. This is a problem.

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