This article has been clarified to reflect the natural gas supply price increase from the same time last year.
If you’re a natural gas consumer who hasn’t checked your latest bill, prepare for a shock: It may be considerably higher than you expect.
This month, Nicor Gas customers will pay a supply price more than twice as much as in the same month last year. People’s Gas price will be up by 92%, while North Shore Gas customers will see a 41% hike.
In other parts of the state, prices will jump as much as 206%, according to the Citizens Utility Board.
Consumer advocates warn customers may pay hundreds of additional dollars to heat their homes this winter. Citizens Utility Board spokesman Jim Chilsen said he worries the natural gas price spike could force some families to decide between paying rent or paying utility bills.
“Based on today’s rates and assuming the current monthly gas supply costs remain the same in February and March,” a typical residential customer who uses approximately 825 therms from November through March will pay about $770, said Nicor Gas spokeswoman Jennifer Golz.
Several factors contributed to higher bills, according to Chilsen and Golz. Among them are a surge in demand that accompanied the pandemic recovery, the impact of Hurricane Ida on gas production in the Gulf Coast, and severe storms last February that froze natural gas pipelines in Texas, thereby reducing the supply.
Chilsen also blames Nicor for “unreasonably aggressive spending.”
He points to the $240 million gas rate hike the company received.
“When you ask for three record increases in four years, that’s going to cause hardship for your customers,” he said.
As a regulated utility, the company does not profit from the sale of natural gas, Golz said.
“The price we pay for gas is passed on to our customers without markup,” she said.
Natural gas costs, which make up 50% to 60% of a customer’s annual bill, are determined by the market, she said.
But gas companies can profit from increased delivery rates, Chilsen said. Since 2018, such rate hikes totaled more than $500 million, he said.
Previously, “it was easier for companies to increase delivery rates without customers taking as much notice…
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