Your gas bill could be about $12 per month higher next year — that’s the average increase per customer Peoples Gas estimates if it succeeds in raising rates.
It’s the first time in nine years the utility company has asked for a rate hike.
The Illinois Commerce Commission has until the end of the year to decide whether to approve the increase.
The number of cases in front of the ICC is in part due to major policy changes impacting the way utilities request rate increases and the commission’s authority to amend those requests. Electric utilities are seeing a more complicated, multiyear rate-setting process and a more thorough review of profit margins. For gas companies, it means more scrutiny of infrastructure costs.
Torrence Hinton, president of Peoples Gas, said replacing pipes is a critical part of the decision. He said there’s iron pipe in the ground that was installed in the 1800s.
“One of the reasons why it’s expensive to operate our energy delivery network is because it’s that old,” Hinton said.
Peoples Gas broke a record in 2022 for net income, earning $209 million that year.
Sarah Moskowitz, executive director at the Citizens Utility Board, argues that the hike should be cut by at least $63 million.
“While they’ve been enjoying those profits, Chicago utility customers have been suffering,” Moskowitz said.
Peoples Gas argues that the possible higher monthly rate will be offset by lower gas costs.
But even without the hike, paying for a gas bill isn’t in reach for all Illinoisans. In May 2023, about 28% of Illinois Peoples Gas consumers were hit with late payment fees or charges, according to the ICC.
Hinton said there are options for customers who can’t pay their bills like energy assistance programs or payment plans.
On Tuesday, a forum was organized by the Illinois Commerce Commission to allow residents to provide feedback. It was an opportunity for residents to express concerns over their ability to pay, Moskowitz said.
“Chicagoans can’t afford to heat their homes as things stand now,” she said.