Why are your utility bills so high?

Beware of sticker shock this season
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 6:59 PM CST
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PEORIA (HEART OF ILLINOIS ABC) - Not only are natural gas prices rising in Central Illinois, the issue is global. The price for natural gas itself has skyrocketed causing utility companies and customers to pay more. Tucker Kennedy, the Communications Director for Ameren Illinois, said, “The main point here is we’re seeing a price increase in the cost of the commodity, natural gas, because of supply and demand. It has reached a 13 year high. That makes up a significant portion of our costumers energy bills.”

Another part of the blame for the higher prices goes to climate change.

Jim Chilsen, the Communications Director of the Citizens Utility Board, said, “It all started last February, when we got hit with that cold weather and that caused all kinds of problems in the natural gas distribution system and that has led to these higher prices we’ve been paying all year,”

Ameren says it has a “1 to 1″ policy, which means what they pay for gas is what you pay. By law, they cannot profit off supply rates. However they can profit off delivery charges, meaning the cost to deliver the gas to your home. The Citizens Utility Board said that’s something Ameren can control to help customers.

Chilsen added, “On another part of the bill, the company is doing aggressive spending. That has led to a rate hike, 76 million, and that’s together, the increase in supply prices and aggressive spending by the utility, is causing hardship for consumers this winter.”

That rate hike Chilsen is referring to is an increased gas delivery rate of $76 million Ameren received in 2021. Chilsen said the board believes in these circumstances, the utility companies are asking the Illinois Commerce Commission for what they want rather than what they need and that “this is time for Ameren to step up to the plate, be a good corporate citizen, and do everything it can to keep customers connected, to work with customers to pay off their debt.”

It is a double whammy, as consumers are getting hit with an increase in gas and electric rates.

Tucker Kennedy added, “In terms of energy delivery and electricity prices, that will be impacted by the new state energy law that was signed by Governor Pritzker back in September. Those will have an impact on customer bills and start to hit customer bills, and Ameren Illinois is mandated to pass those costs on to their customers.”

Lastly, Chilsen said, “We’re realizing this winter how important energy efficiency is, it can soften the blow of these massive increases in gas bills.”

To help reduce your utility bills:

  • Lower your thermostat to 68 while you’re home, and 58 while you’re away.
  • Unplug electric devices and turn off lights when they’re not being used.
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees: Heating water can account for as much as a quarter of your energy usage.
  • Reduce shower time and limit baths.
  • Operate your washer, dryer and dishwasher when they’re fully loaded.

If you need help paying your gas and electric bills, reach out to your local utility companies.

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