CUB Help Center

Alert: High natural gas prices

Due to extreme weather and market problems earlier in 2021, utilities in Illinois for most of the year have been charging high natural gas prices—even double or triple 2020 prices. (See CUB Executive Director David Kolata discussing this on WGN TV.) If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact CUB at 1-800-669-5556 or file an online complaint. Please stay safe and warm!

October 2021 gas supply prices:

Natural gas supply prices change on a monthly basis and can be impacted by market conditions. Below are the current prices.

  • Ameren Illinois – 66.72¢ per therm
  • MidAmerican – 96.29¢ per therm
  • Nicor Gas – 63¢ per therm
  • North Shore Gas – 67.19¢ per therm
  • Peoples Gas – 72.56¢ per therm

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Why Are Natural Gas Prices So High?

High gas prices are in part the lingering effects of an extreme, climate change-induced cold snap that brought record-low temperatures across the nation last February. The cold froze natural gas pipelines and wellheads in the South, limiting supply across the country just as heating demand was increasing. This led to skyrocketing prices. There are other contributing factors, such as decreased gas exploration and well construction. Read our Q&A to learn more. See the visualization below to compare rates from 2020 and 2021.

Financial Resources

  • The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, LIHEAP is designed to help income-eligible households pay for winter energy service. Read CUB’s fact sheet on the program.
  • Share the Warmth (Peoples Gas): Share the Warmth provides heating grants to limited and fixed-income households. Eligible customers can receive grants of up to $200 on their bills.
  • Share the Warmth (North Shore Gas): Share the Warmth provides heating grants to limited and fixed-income households. Eligible customers can receive grants of up to $200 on their bills.
  • Nicor Gas Sharing Program: One-time annual grants are given, with no requirement to be paid back, to qualified residential customers who meet the required income guidelines. The Nicor Gas Sharing Program is administered by the Salvation Army and funded through direct contributions from Nicor Gas’ customers and employees.
  • Warm Neighbors Cool Friends: This Ameren program provides year-round energy bill payment assistance and home weatherization to make harsh winters and hot summers bearable. Eligible households can receive up to $700 a year to help pay for energy costs ($350 during the heating season and $350 during the cooling season.)
  • Ameren Payment Assistance: Ameren Illinois offers several forms of financial assistance, including short-term, one-time payment extensions and fixed monthly payment agreements to settle past balances.

Note: CUB does not offer financial assistance and does not have an affiliation with or oversight of any of the above-mentioned programs. Please contact those programs directly.

Disconnection

If you receive a disconnection notice, call the company immediately to discuss your options. If you cannot afford your bills, you could be eligible for financial assistance. You may need to enter into a deferred payment arrangement, and in certain circumstances, you may be able to use a medical certificate to postpone disconnection. Do everything you can to prevent disconnection. If you are shut off, you lose all of the rights and protections that exist for active customers.

It’s a myth that the utility can never disconnect your heat in the winter or your electricity in the summer. State regulations do limit disconnections for nonpayment, but the details are complex.

Residential accounts deemed to be in compliance with state regulations are safe from disconnection:

  • When the temperature is below 32 degrees or expected to fall below 32 degrees within the next 24-hour period, and disconnection would affect your heat.
  • When the temperature is above 95 degrees or expected to rise above 95 degrees within the next 24-hour period (electricity only).
  • On any day preceding a weekend or holiday when temperatures are expected to meet the above criteria.
  • If it’s between December 1 and March 31 AND if the utility accepted LIHEAP funds on the account after September 1 of that heating season.
  • If it’s between December 1 and March 31 and you have an electric heat account (meaning your primary source of heat is electricity).
  • If it’s between December 1 and March 31 and you are a service member who has just been assigned to duty.

Alternative Suppliers

During high-priced times, consumers wonder if they should switch to an alternative supplier. Remember: Alternative suppliers are impacted by the same market conditions as regulated utilities, but they can set their prices as high as they want. Far from being an opportunity to save money, the gas market has been filled with bad deals. If a deal seems too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is. Learn more: Nicor Gas customers, North Shore/Peoples Gas customers.

Winter Heating Safety

  • In the winter, set your thermostat to 68°F while you’re at home. While you’re asleep or out of the house, drop the temperature by 7° to 10°F: This tip can save you up to 10 percent on your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Never raise or lower your thermostat to a temperature that could threaten your health.
  • Do not lower your thermostat below 55 degrees: doing so could cause your water pipes to freeze and burst.
  • Warming centers are available in state facilities across Illinois to help consumers reduce their home heating costs. These facilities are safe, warm places to go while you turn your thermostat down. Warming center hours vary by location and are limited to each facilities’ regular business hours. Find a Warming Center here.
  • Don’t use your oven to heat your home.
  • If you use a space heater, place it on a hard, level surface. Don’t use an extension cord, keep it at least three feet away from flammable objects such as the couch or curtains, and don’t leave it on overnight.
  • Close blinds and curtains or cover your windows with blankets as an extra layer of protection against icy night winds, but open them during the day so sunlight can help heat your home.
  • Clear radiators, registers, air returns and baseboards of obstructions. Dust, carpeting 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 now is a great time to clean or replace it if it’s dirty.

CUB Resources

Take Action

Natural gas prices are about double what they were last year, and one estimate of major gas utilities found that winter bills could be as much as 50 percent higher compared with the last heating season.

Please sign our petition and alert Washington to this problem. Tell our policymakers to protect heating customers this winter!

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