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August update: Gas prices still at unprecedented highs, prepare for expensive winter

Illinois is entering its eighteenth month of elevated natural gas prices, with several utilities charging unprecedented highs of more than $1 a therm, according to pricing data filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

Last winter was the most expensive in more than a decade, and it looks like the high gas prices will extend into the upcoming winter, making it important to start energy efficiency preparations at home now.  

Price spikes are a recurring theme in the fossil fuel industry, and this one was first sparked by extreme weather in February of 2021 and then propped up by other developments, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that have combined to cause ongoing pain for Illinois consumers. (Now, the elevated gas prices are causing electricity prices to skyrocket also–because gas is often used to generate electricity.) 

About 80 percent of Illinois homes heat with natural gas, and the past winter was their most expensive winter since the cold season of 2008-09, with many customers paying hundreds of dollars more to heat their homes. Utilities file new supply prices– called the Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA)– each month. Below are the prices for August. 

August Gas Prices

Ameren Illinois 85.94 cents per therm (up about 30 percent from August 2021)
Consumers Gas 98.32 cents per therm (up about 50 percent from last August)
Illinois Gas 62.36 cents per therm (up about 84 percent from last August)
Liberty Utilities $1.15 per therm (up about 131 percent from last August)
MidAmerican Energy $1.07 per therm (up about 39 percent from last August)
Mt. Carmel 89.85 cents per therm (up about 68 percent from last August)
Nicor Gas $1.24 per therm (up about 134 percent from last August)
North Shore Gas 95.31 cents per therm (up about 84 percent from last August)
Peoples Gas $1.12 per therm (up about 72 percent from last August)

Remember, you cannot switch to another utility. Your utility is determined by where you live.

Under Illinois law, gas utilities are not allowed to profit off supply prices—they pass those costs from gas producers and marketers onto customers with no markup. State regulators (and CUB) annually review the utilities’ gas-management procedures to ensure the companies did a reasonable job with their gas purchases, given market conditions, to hold down costs for consumers as much as possible.

But the gas utilities hide behind these supply and demand excuses. There’s more to this story in Illinois: Aggressive spending and rampant rate hikes by Peoples Gas, Nicor Gas and Ameren Illinois also have contributed to skyrocketing gas bills.

While utilities cannot profit off gas supply, they have increased and profited off another part of the bill: Delivery, what they charge to deliver gas to homes. CUB is working to eliminate the “Qualified Infrastructure Plant” surcharge from Ameren, Nicor and Peoples Gas bills. (Take Action!) The charge, which was created by a law the General Assembly passed in 2013, allows gas utilities to sidestep the traditional regulatory process and rake in revenue more quickly, leading to rapidly rising heating bills. 

Please visit CUBHelpCenter.com, a free online resource that explains why energy prices are high, offers efficiency tips, outlines a customer’s rights against disconnection and arms customers with information about energy assistance. If you are having difficulty affording your energy bills, watch CUB’s video on three actions you can take.