The French energy giant, EDF energy, has trebled its profit in 2011, despite sales in the UK falling by 8 percent.

The UK’s largest supplier of nuclear energy reported a total income after tax of £2.3 billion for 2011, an increase of £1.7 billion from 2010’s figure.

Responding to EDF Energy’s results 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.”

EDF’s profits were boosted by increased nuclear output and the cost of wholesale gas dropping. Henri Proglio, Chairman and Chief Executive of EDF said: “2011 was marked by solid financial and operating results despite a troubled environment.”

Gallacher added: “We need successful, profitable companies. But consumers need to know big profit margins are not being made needlessly at their expense. The issue is not how much money is made over one year, it’s whether the market is working as a whole, pricing is fair, and if suppliers are providing enough transparency.”

Currently in the UK, 5.5 million households are in fuel poverty, spending 10 per cent or more of their income on power. Winter deaths are on the rise and, according to an Age UK report, half of all over 60s have been forced to turn down their heating as a result of rising bills.

Which? Executive Director Richard Lloyd said: ‘There's an unstoppable tide of public opinion demanding more affordable energy. 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 energy supplier is the first of the ‘Big Six’ to announce its 2011 profits. The rest of the suppliers are expected to announce their respective profits over the coming weeks.