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Winter forecast: Finally, some relief (we hope)

After two painful winters, federal predictions are that Midwest gas bills will be down about 14-21 percent compared with last winter.

The supply side of bills has definitely been down–CUB’s review of December gas prices showed that all but one of the major Illinois utilities in the state were charging prices that were down by a range of 35-56 percent from last winter.

On the delivery side of bills, some gas utilities have tried to justify their rate-hike requests by saying that the drop in supply prices means overall bills won’t go up, even if there’s a hike in delivery charges. That’s misleading. Thank goodness supply prices have come down, but in this volatile fossil fuel market, they will go up again. And when they do, that will make the impact of any delivery hikes even worse.

The costliness of gas is a big reason CUB is helping to develop policy to begin planning the transition to cheaper, cleaner forms of heat, including working for a Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance in Chicago.

The federal Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, predicted in November that expenditures for gas in Midwestern homes this winter will be down about 14-21 percent, depending on weather, compared with last winter.

Propane users face the worst potential volatility. Homes that heat with propane could see an 11 percent decrease in their winter bills, the EIA said, with a mild winter possibly leading to slightly bigger savings, 13 percent. However, colder weather could spike bills by up to 40 percent higher than last winter, according to the EIA.

As you know, conditions can change quickly. We’ll keep you up to date as the winter progresses. In the meantime, visit CUB’s Clean Energy page to use energy efficiency to cut your costs.