Energy prices continue to drive inflation in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Inflation continues to be a burden on Illinois families and a major contributor to rising costs are energy prices.  

The Citizens Utility Board reports natural gas prices have nearly tripled in the past two years, and gas futures recently hit a 14-year high.

A 2013 law passed by the Illinois General Assembly allows major gas utilities to add a Qualified Infrastructure Plant, or QIP, fee to bills. It covers certain costs associated with replacing natural gas pipes and other work on the utilities’ gas delivery system. Under the law, the surcharge is slated to sunset on Dec. 31, 2023.

Abe Scarr, Illinois director of the advocacy nonprofit Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), said Illinoisans are picking up the tab for wasteful spending by utility companies. 

“It is pretty evident that Nicor, Peoples Gas and Ameren Illinois have all been spending more than they need to and not to provide better service to customers but to jack up their profits,” Scarr said. 

Scarr notes that Nicor Gas has raised delivery rates by 77% in just four years, and the average Peoples Gas customer in Chicago is paying roughly $15 more per month as a result of the QI surcharge. 

Currently with the surcharge in place, a company can begin collecting costs before having to justify the rate increase to regulators. 

A Nicor spokesman said spending money on improvements is necessary to prepare for times of need, such as an extended period of time of cold weather, like the Polar Vortex of 2019.

According to Illinois PIRG, another dark cloud on the horizon is that gas utilities have not put as much in storage as in typical years. Utilities in the Midwest have 8% less gas in storage than they have on average over the past five years. Utilities usually purchase gas for storage when prices dip in the summer. Weather cools down in autumn, when they take out of storage in winter months when prices are the highest. If Illinois experiences a colder than normal winter, prices most likely will spike.

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