Some good news: Gas prices for February continue the downward trend we’ve been seeing the last few months. Plus, recently the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department, eased its prediction on how much more Midwest natural gas customers could pay on average this winter–from 29 percent to 16 percent. (16 percent is still high, so we hope this number continues to fall.)
Gas utilities file supply prices–called the Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA)–each month with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). Gas prices are down anywhere from 3 percent to 25 percent from the prices in January. The largest gas utility in the state, Nicor Gas, is charging a price that is 15 percent lower than in January and 31 percent lower than in December. Ameren Illinois’ price was down about 7 percent from last month.
But the prices are still higher than February of 2021, by a range of 17 percent to 160 percent. Below are the supply prices for February 2023, and how they compare with the prices from last year.
February Gas Prices
Ameren Illinois–61.377 cents per therm (down about 12 percent from February 2022)
Consumers Gas–57.419 cents per therm (up about 17 percent from February 2022)
Illinois Gas–44.40 cents per therm (down about 32 percent from February 2022)
Liberty Utilities–63.05 cents per therm (down about 37 percent from February 2022)
MidAmerican Energy–73.12 cents per therm (down about 28 percent from February 2022)
Mt. Carmel–73.44 cents per therm (up about 69 percent from February 2022)
Nicor Gas–59.00 cents per therm (up about 7 percent from February 2022)
North Shore Gas–45.01 cents per therm (down about 24 percent from February 2022)
Peoples Gas–42.27 cents per therm (down about 29 percent from February 2022)
Note: Your utility is determined by where you live, so you cannot switch from one utility to another.
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 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.
A review of important info about gas prices
Gas supply price spikes are a recurring theme in the fossil fuel industry–there was a jump in prices in the winter of 2008-09, and in 2014. The latest spike was first caused by extreme weather in February of 2021. Record cold in the southern United States for a time froze gas in wellheads and pipelines, limiting supply just as demand went up. Since then, the high prices have been propped up by other developments, including Hurricane Ida in the summer of 2021 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, which have combined to cause ongoing pain for Illinois consumers. The elevated gas prices have also caused electricity prices to skyrocket–because gas is often used to generate electricity. (Read our Q&A on high natural gas bills.)
But the gas utilities hide behind supply and demand excuses. There’s more to this story in Illinois: Aggressive spending and big rate hikes by Peoples Gas, Nicor Gas and Ameren Illinois also have contributed to skyrocketing gas bills. CUB is currently challenging rate hikes by all three utilities–please sign our petition against your utility’s rate hike.
The last two expensive winters have just reinforced the need to move away from expensive, dirty natural gas as a heating source. CUB Executive Director David Kolata spoke at a news conference in January asking the Chicago City Council to support an ordinance moving new buildings to cheaper and cleaner forms of heating than natural gas.
“Chicago is in a heating-affordability crisis because gas prices have hurtled out of control – and that was before Peoples Gas proposed another staggering rate hike this month,” Kolata said. “But the good news is that we can adopt construction standards that move away from dirty, expensive gas, curb heating bills in the long-run, and protect our health and the environment.” You can send a message to your City Council representative to urge their support of such an ordinance.
While CUB works for long-term reform, here are some actions consumers can take to get through this difficult winter:
- See if you qualify for energy assistance. The application process for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has reopened through May 31, 2023, or until funds are exhausted. Households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for LIHEAP funding. To apply or learn more, visit www.helpillinoisfamilies.com or call the Help Illinois Families Assistance Line at 1-833-711-0374.
- Contact your utility. If you are having trouble affording your gas bills, it is vital that you contact your utility. Ask if you qualify for any energy assistance programs; see if you can set up a payment plan to give you a longer time to pay off your bills; and inquire about no or low-cost energy efficiency programs the company offers.
- Beware of alternative supplier rip-offs. Alternative gas suppliers are impacted by the same market conditions that are causing utility prices to increase, so be careful about getting lured into bad deals. Be wary of low introductory rates that will skyrocket after a short period, and read the fine print for add-on fees that can raise the cost of the plan. If a deal seems too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is. Even in this market, it’s likely the utility is your best bet. (Note: Only consumers in Northern Illinois have gas choice.)
- Practice energy efficiency at home. For tips and information about helpful energy efficiency programs offered by your utility, visit CUB’s Clean Energy page. Also visit CUBHelpCenter.com for more information about energy assistance, tips on cutting your bills and your rights to avoid disconnection. Read our tips here and here. A summary:
- Set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you are home and awake. When you’re asleep or away, you can turn it 7-10 degrees lower. NEVER go below 55 degrees, because you could freeze your pipes.
- Reduce the drafts. Weatherize your windows and doors, and pinpoint other drafts in your home. Your hardware store has materials to seal those leaks.
- Don’t overwork your heating system. Close blinds as an extra layer of protection against icy night winds. But let the sunlight through during the day to help heat and light your home. Clear radiators, registers, air returns and baseboards of obstructions. Dust, carpet and furniture can block the heat and leave a room chilly.
- Clean or replace filters for a forced-air heating system. A dirty or non-functioning filter does nothing but drain money from your wallet. Check it every month—and clean or replace it if it’s dirty.