IL Commerce Commission approves lower-than-expected gas rate hikes surprising advocates
CHICAGO (WGEM) - Rates for Illinois natural gas providers are going up but not as much as they would like.
The Illinois Commerce Commission voted to raise rates for the state’s four major gas utilities Thursday, including Ameren Illinois. The increases, however, weren’t as large as the utilities were asking.
Ameren Illinois had its proposed rate increase slashed by about 50%.
Abe Scarr, the director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group, advocates for consumers.
He said the Commission’s decision is a step in the right direction for consumers across the state for now and in the future.
“In the future, we can expect less severe rate hikes because of the decision regulators made [Thursday]. They put into place structures that is going to contain wasteful spending by the gas utilities and that would mean less severe rate hikes in the future,” Scarr said.
He said Thursday’s decision diverges from what has happened in the past when the Commission would typically accept utilities’ requested rate hikes. He credits the new commissioners for taking a different approach.
Following Thursday’s decision, Ameren Illinois released a statement in Director of Communications Tucker Kennedy said rates should still go down for consumers despite the overall rate hike, as natural gas is cheaper.
“We are conducting an in-depth review of the ICC’s order to assess how the changes will impact investments in the natural gas delivery infrastructure. Ameren Illinois operates a vast underground network of natural gas pipelines, storage fields, and technology. Our first and most important obligation is to ensure that this complex system continues to perform safely and reliably and meets the essential needs of our business and residential customers.
“Regarding the cost impact, what matters most to our customers is their total monthly bill amount. Because natural gas supply prices have declined significantly, most residential customers can expect their monthly bills to be about $20 lower this winter heating season when compared to last year, even after factoring in new delivery rates ordered by the ICC.”
The three utilities affected by Thursday’s decisions besides Ameren Illinois were Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas.
Nicor Gas also released a statement following the Commission’s decision:
“We are reviewing the details of the Commission’s decision and will have more information in the coming days. The additional funds are needed to help us meet evolving regulations, continue to modernize our system and recover inflationary costs. However, even with this rate increase, Nicor Gas’ distribution rates will remain among the lowest of any major gas distribution utility in Illinois.
“Any request to increase rates is not made without careful consideration of the impact to our 2.3 million customers. Their wellbeing is central to every decision we make, and this continued commitment will provide support for basic needs and energy assistance to helping make homes more energy efficient. Our Energy Efficiency Program provides more than $12.5 million annually to assist customers with energy-saving home improvements. And last year Nicor Gas applied $61.4 million in energy assistance grants to income-eligible customers through initiatives like the Sharing and Energy Aide programs.
“In Illinois, 80% of people rely on natural gas to heat their homes in the winter. Nicor Gas is committed to ensuring our customers continue to receive the reliable service they deserve to keep their homes and businesses warm.”
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