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Five questions every gas and electric customer should ask when reading their bills

CUB holds hundreds of events across Illinois to analyze consumer utility bills, but we also want to make sure people know to read it themselves if needed. “If you get a high bill, it’s important to ask a few questions,” said CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen.

Here are five questions to consider when reading your gas and electric bills:

Am I paying for an alternative gas or electric supplier? Your bill is divided into two parts: supply and delivery. On the supply side, the biggest fee is the per-kilowatt-hour (electric) or per-therm (gas) supply charge, which covers the actual gas or electricity you use. If your supply costs skyrocket, it might be because you’re paying a high rate with an alternative supplier. Scan the supply section to see if you spot the name of another company.

Am I using more energy? Did your energy usage spike last month because of weather or extra house guests? Most bills have a bar graph that displays your energy consumption and how it compares to past months.

Did my electric or gas utility get a rate hike? If the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) granted your utility a rate hike, the increase will be reflected in higher rates on the delivery side of the bill. The two biggest delivery charges are the monthly customer charge and a per-kilowatt-hour or per-therm distribution charge.

Is my meter being read? Some utilities may skip meter readings and estimate your usage. When they get the real reading, you may get an adjustment and that could lead to an uptick in your bill. In your bill’s meter section, look for the words “Actual” or “Estimated” (or the letter “A” or “E”). If a utility estimates your usage two months in a row, find out why. The good news is more modern meters can be read remotely, so estimated bills are less common.

Is there something unusual? Is there a security deposit, installment plan, or budget billing adjustment adding dollars to your bill? Is there a new or different meter number? Call the utility for a full explanation, and request an on-site investigation if necessary.

Read our newly updated Gas and Electric guide, and visit our Gas and Electric pages for more in-depth tips and information.