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Illinois home to lowest electric bills in the Midwest, nine years running

For the ninth consecutive year, Illinois had the lowest average electricity bills in the Midwest, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

Illinois, which at one point had the highest bills in the Midwest, has now had the lowest since 2012. But there’s so much more to do, which is why CUB is working to lower consumer bills through legislation and decarbonization.

The EIA, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy, reported that Illinois’ average monthly bill, $93.98 in 2020, fell well below the national average of $115.22. In fact, Illinois has the fifth lowest average bill in the country. Utah, the cheapest, is at $80.24, and Hawaii tops the list with $162.66. Here’s how Illinois stacks up against other Midwestern states:

  • Illinois: $93.98

  • Wisconsin: $99.42

  • Minnesota: $102.11

  • Ohio: $107.30

  • Iowa: $107.78

  • Michigan: $109.86

  • Missouri: $115.35

  • Indiana: $120.34

Here’s where Illinois ranks among the states (and the District of Columbia) that have the lowest average power bills:

  • Utah: $80.24

  • New Mexico: $86.66

  • Colorado: $87.88

  • District of Columbia: $88.89

  • Illinois: $93.98

  • Idaho: $95.04

“We’re glad Illinois ranks among the lowest average power bills in the nation, but clearly, there’s a lot of work to do,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “We need to keep striving for long-term energy reforms.”

Kolata pointed to a number of challenges Illinois energy customers face.

All customers of the major gas utilities are witnessing rapidly rising bills, but it seems most pronounced in Chicago, as Peoples Gas continues an infrastructure spending spree that is needlessly aggressive. In the fall, we reported that nearly 170,000 Peoples Gas customers, about 20 percent, were  more than 30 days behind on their natural gas bills, owing an average of $734 for a total debt of $124.5 million. In one neighborhood, 54 percent of customers were behind on their bills, with an average utility debt of $1,053.

So what do we do? In addition to calling for state and federal authorities to invest  “in a utility assistance program that is unprecedented in scale,”  CUB is working  on long-term solutions.

One major task is  implementing the Climate & Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). Signed into law this fall, CEJA is a historic bill that will set the stage for lower “capacity” charges, hidden fees on our electric bills that pay big generators for reserve power. It also extends electric energy efficiency programs that have already saved consumers billions of dollars. Plus, it replaces the old formula system of setting electricity rates with a more transparent one that gives consumers an opportunity for broader participation and puts greater emphasis on customer values like affordability, reliability and sustainability.

The skyrocketing gas prices point to a need to begin the complicated transition away from that boom-bust fossil fuel to a cleaner, more affordable way to heat our homes. A new study by CUB found that Chicago residents could slash their energy costs by up to $47,000 over the next three decades by replacing gas furnaces with electric heat pumps. An ever-improving technology, a heat pump can cool a home in the summer, but in the winter functions like a central air-conditioning unit in reverse, circulating hot air into a household.

CUB has now launched a “better heat” campaign in Chicago to explore how we can make this transition, while lowering energy costs and protecting low- and moderate-income consumers.

“Our relatively low power bills should give us some hope and motivation to dive deeper into our energy challenges,” Kolata said. “These are not easy solutions, but they are necessary solutions, and for the sake of our power bills and the planet we can’t put off planning for a clean, energy future.”