By Jason Theodorou

British Gas saw profits double in the first half of the year, boosted by the coldest winter in 30 years. The energy firm made operating profits of £585 million for the first half of 2010, a rise of 98% according to parent company Centrica.

UK households used up to 8% more heating and gas in response to the winter chill, and British Gas was further benefited by an influx of 223,000 new customers after slashing gas bills in February. This brought the company's total number of customers to 15.79 million.

Centrica's chief executive, Sam Laidlaw, told BBC Radio 4: 'This is a competitive market, so we can't give any signals, but our position has always been to lead the market down and try to delay any price increases as long as we can'.

'Residential gas consumption in the United Kingdom rose by eight percent in the first half, with additional demand during the cold weather more than offsetting an underlying reduction in consumption through energy efficiency measures'.

Centrica said that British Gas profits would largely come from the first half of the year, as rising gas prices would have an impact on margins in the remainder of 2010. If this continues, there may be a rise in the cost of utility bills for homeowners.

Centrica posted an increase in operating profits of 65% to £1.56 billion.