BRITISH Gas owner Centrica has seen its profits soar to more than £3 billion for 2022 amid rocketing energy prices that have sparked a cost-of-living crisis.

The Greens said the totals were “obscene” and “really underline how fatally broken our energy market is”.

The energy giant reported underlying operating profits of £3.3 billion against profits of £948 million in 2021.

Stripping out its Spirit Energy businesses that were sold, underlying earnings for the group jumped to £2.8 billion from £392 million the previous year.

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Its figures also come amid a furore over Centrica’s use of debt collectors to install expensive pre-payment meters by force in the homes of vulnerable cash-strapped customers.

Trade union Unite hit out at “rampaging energy profiteering” and Centrica’s treatment of customers.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “British Gas owner Centrica has been coining it in from our massive energy bills while sending bailiffs to prey on vulnerable consumers the length and breadth of the country.

“These energy companies are showing us everything that is wrong with the UK’s broken economy.

“Rishi Sunak should get a grip – pull the plug on rampaging energy profiteering, impose a meaningful, tough windfall tax and give the NHS a pay rise with the proceeds.”

Centrica said it paid nearly £1 billion in tax relating to 2022 profits.

But it also revealed it handed out bumper returns to shareholders, with plans to boost its share buyback programme by another £300 million and paying out a full-year dividend of 3p a share.

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Scottish Green environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said the profits underlined the need for a windfall tax that is “fit for purpose”.

He said: "These profits are absolutely obscene. They show a staggering level of profiteering and greed, and really underline how fatally broken our energy market is.

"Right now, in every corner of the country, there are people and families suffering through a brutal cost of living crisis. They are the people who are paying for this. Many of them will be shocked, but not surprised, to see Centrica and the other fossil fuel giants celebrating record profits while the world is burning around us.

"We cannot continue like this. People's wellbeing and the future of our planet are at stake.

"We need to see a major investment in renewables and in our future. Green energy is the cheapest and cleanest energy available.

“That means closing the loopholes in the windfall tax to make it fit for purpose. That way we can ensure that these profits are being used to fuel a green recovery rather than continuing with a climate wrecking system that is failing people and planet.”

The National:

Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband hit out at the Government as he promised that Labour would introduce a “proper” windfall tax on energy companies.

“It cannot be right that, as oil and gas giants rake in the windfalls of war, Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives refuse to implement a proper windfall tax that would make them pay their fair share,” Miliband tweeted.

“Labour would use a real windfall tax to stop the energy price cap going up in April.”

In the figures, Centrica said it was “extremely disappointed” by the pre-payment meter allegations over the tactics used by the debt collectors it employed.

“We immediately took action to address this and are completing a thorough independent investigation,” it added.

Centrica’s results showed it made operating profits of £72 million at its British Gas retail division, British Gas Energy, but this was down 39% on the year before.