Electricity supply prices charged by Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois have increased by 10 percent and 19 percent, respectively, as of October 1.
Now that a pandemic-related ban on door-to-door marketing has been lifted, CUB warned Illinois consumers to beware of unscrupulous alternative supplier sales representatives that may try to take advantage of news about higher utility supply rates to lure customers into bad deals. The higher power prices arrive as customers already face natural gas prices that are about double or triple what they paid last year, signaling an expensive winter.
“This winter could get rough for a lot of Illinois consumers who were already struggling financially because of the pandemic,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said in a CUB news release. “State and federal officials will need to take additional steps to protect electric and gas customers in the months to come. In the long term, given that extreme weather is a contributing factor to high energy prices, this argues for launching policies designed to shield consumers from climate change and its costly consequences.”
As of Oct. 1, ComEd’s non-summer “price to compare”—the rate customers should compare with alternative supplier offers—is about 10 percent higher than last October’s rate. Ameren’s is up by 19 percent, for the first 800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of usage.
According to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), these are the new prices from Oct. 1 through May 2022:
5.407 cents per kWh for 0-800 kWh, 5.209 cents per kWh for usage over 800 kWh
Note: This rate includes Ameren’s supply price, a transmission charge and a supply cost adjustment.
7.777 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for all kWhs.
Note: This rate includes ComEd’s supply price plus a transmission charge.
ComEd and Ameren do not profit off the price of electricity–they pass those costs onto customers with no markup. However, the companies do profit off the rates they charge customers to deliver electricity. And both ComEd ($45 million) and Ameren ($60 million) are currently asking for delivery increases, which would go into effect this winter, on Jan. 1.
Natural gas—the source of heat for about 80 percent of Illinois homes—has seen even worse price increases heading into the winter, CUB’s WatchBlog reported. In October, major gas utilities are charging supply prices that range from 91 percent to 198 percent higher than last October, according to the utilities’ tariffs.
The high energy prices are due to a number of factors, including that natural gas production has slowed in recent years. But extreme weather has also played a key role. Last winter, record cold across the south froze pipelines and wellheads, limiting supply in the natural gas network just as demand was increasing. Months later, utility customers are still dealing with the resulting skyrocketing gas prices. Also, air conditioning demand was up this summer, due to high temperatures. Gas prices impact electricity supply rates, because natural gas is often used to generate electricity.
CUB offered tips for energy customers caught in this high-priced winter:
Beware of alternative supplier rip-offs. Recently, state regulators lifted a pandemic-related ban on door-to-door alternative supplier marketing that had been in place for about 18 months. CUB is concerned that sales representatives will use marketing ploys that take advantage of the higher utility prices to lure customers into bad deals. “A market with higher utility prices is fertile ground for misleading, high-pressure sales pitches and rip-offs,” Kolata said.
Remember: Alternative suppliers are subject to the same market conditions that impact electric and gas utility supply prices, but they are allowed to set their prices as high as they want. Far from being an opportunity to save money, the electric and natural gas markets have been rife with bad deals and rip-offs. If an alternative supplier offers a deal that seems too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is. Your utility is likely your best bet.
Energy efficiency can help soften the blow of high prices. Efficiency is always important, and it’s especially key at times like this. Visit CUB’s Clean Energy Page for information on efficiency programs and tips available to consumers. Also, CUBHelpCenter.com has information on high heating prices and efficiency tips.
Whether you use electricity or gas to heat your home, here are a few money-saving tips:
- Weather-strip doors, caulk windows and install storm windows if you have them. A door guard or sweep can help fill the gap at the bottom of your front and back doors. You can find these items at local hardware stores.
- In cold weather, set your thermostat to 68°F when you’re at home and awake. When you’re asleep or away, turn your thermostat down 7° to 10°F. Never let your thermostat drop below 55 degrees, as you could freeze your water pipes. Setting your thermostat back about 10 degrees for at least eight hours a day can save you almost 10 percent on your heating/cooling costs over the course of a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Use fans. In the winter, run your ceiling fan clockwise to circulate warm air. Make sure to turn off your fan when you leave the room. (Fans are for people, not empty rooms.)
- Turn off unnecessary lights and unplug extra appliances (computers, laptops, phone chargers).