As Illinois enters the first month of the winter heating season, October gas prices continue the trend of being significantly lower than the last two years, with some glaring examples of the volatility that makes consumers so uneasy.
Gas utilities file supply prices–called the Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA)–each month with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). In October, gas prices are anywhere from down 46 percent (Liberty Utilities) to up 61 percent (Illinois Gas) from the prices last month. Most of the largest utilities in the state show increases: Peoples Gas (6.8 percent), MidAmerican (1.8 percent) and Ameren Illinois (4.5 percent). The exception is Nicor Gas, which is charging the same price as the month before.
Below are the supply prices for October 2023, and how they compare with the prices from last October.
October Gas Prices
Ameren Illinois–41.81 cents per therm (down about 53 percent from October 2022)
Consumers Gas–40.36 cents per therm (down about 59 percent from October 2022)
Illinois Gas–30.97 cents per therm (down about 66 percent from October 2022)
Liberty Utilities–49.61 cents per therm (down about 53 percent from October 2022)
MidAmerican Energy–47.78 cents per therm (down about 50 percent from October 2022)
Mt. Carmel–53.07 cents per therm (down about 59 percent from October 2022)
Nicor Gas–42.00 cents per therm (down about 66 percent from October 2022)
North Shore Gas–39.26 cents per therm (down about 54 percent from October 2022)
Peoples Gas–33.69 cents per therm (down about 69 percent from October 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.
Gas prices: A recent (painful) history
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 and through the winters of 2021 and 2022. 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. The high prices were propped up by other developments, including Hurricane Ida in the summer of 2021 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The elevated gas prices also caused electricity prices to skyrocket–because gas is often used to generate electricity.
But the gas utilities hide behind supply and demand excuses. There’s more to this story in Illinois: Aggressive spending and rate hikes by Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Nicor Gas and Ameren Illinois also have contributed to skyrocketing gas bills. (CUB is currently challenging $2.9 billion in rate hikes by all utilities (including the gas companies)–please sign our petition against your utility’s rate hike.)
The last few winters have just reinforced the need to move away from expensive, dirty natural gas as a heating source. CUB and other consumer and environmental advocates are urging the Chicago City Council to support an ordinance moving new buildings to cheaper and cleaner forms of heat than natural gas.
“The gas system is driving a large number of Chicagoans to energy bankruptcy, so it’s urgent that we start planning this long transition now,” CUB Executive Director Sarah Moskowitz said. “We want to do this right, we want to protect all consumers, and the first step is a clean, affordable buildings ordinance.” (Please sign our petition for such an ordinance.)
While CUB works for long-term reform, here are some actions consumers can take to get through the winter:
- See if you qualify for energy assistance. The application process for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) reopens October 2 for seniors (age 60 or older), people with disabilities and families with children under the age of 6 years old. 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. CUB has gotten many complaints about bad deals from alternative gas suppliers. 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. It’s likely the utility is your best bet. (Note: Only consumers in Northern Illinois have gas choice.)
- Practice energy efficiency. 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.