Gas supply rates are continuing to drop for most major utilities in Illinois, and they are far below the price spikes of 2022, according to a CUB review of April pricing information the companies filed with the state.
Heating gas prices have decreased by up to 38 percent between March and April for most utilities–but there were some exceptions. Nicor, Illinois’ largest gas utility, is charging the same price it did in March, 45 cents per therm. Peoples Gas’ price increased by 19 percent (but it’s still under 30 cents a therm). Peoples’ sister company, North Shore Gas, saw an increase of 28 percent, and Liberty Utilities recorded an increase of 9 percent.
Still, prices for all utilities were down by a range of 29 percent to 62 percent from last April. That’s good news after nearly two years of elevated prices, but Illinois consumers continue to be at the mercy of a volatile energy market. Plus, gas utilities are pushing to increase another part of the bill, having filed for more than $900 million in delivery rate hikes this year.
Gas utilities file supply prices–called the Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA)–each month with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). Below are the supply prices for April 2023 and how they compare with last April’s prices.
April Gas Prices
Ameren Illinois–45.18 cents per therm (down about 34 percent from April 2022)
Consumers Gas–41.32 cents per therm (down about 31 percent from April 2022)
Illinois Gas–24.18 cents per therm (down about 33 percent from April 2022)
Liberty Utilities–65.65 cents per therm (down about 29 percent from April 2022)
MidAmerican Energy–39.30 cents per therm (down about 61 percent from April 2022)
Mt. Carmel–26.02 cents per therm (down about 62 percent from April 2022)
Nicor Gas–45.00 cents per therm (down about 34 percent from April 2022)
North Shore Gas–32.5 cents per therm (down about 49 percent from April 2022)
Peoples Gas–29.76 cents per therm (down about 51 percent from April 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.
As CUB has reported before, gas prices first became elevated due to record cold that froze gas in pipelines and wellheads, limiting national supply just as demand went up in February 2021. The problem was intensified by the gas industry slowing exploration and well construction in recent years because it didn’t see those efforts as profitable. The high prices were propped up by other developments, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Prices finally seem to be coming down, thanks to increased production and milder winter weather that decreased demand. But the volatile gas market lacks safeguards for consumers.
Given the unpredictability of the gas market, many advocates are looking for alternatives to natural gas heating. CUB’s Better Heat guide details how Chicago can transition away from fossil fuel heating to save consumers money and help the environment. A statewide version is soon to be released.
While CUB works for long-term reform, here are some actions consumers can take to get through this time:
- 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.