Why is my heating bill so high? Advocates, lawmakers blame surcharge that can cost you $150/year

Why are heating bills in Illinois so high?

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) said Monday that Illinois residents are facing the highest heating bills they've had since the winter of 2008-2009.

The group said that part of the blame lies with the "Qualified Infrastructure Plant" or "QIP" fee that's being charged by Ameren Illinois, Nicor Gas and People's Gas. That surcharge is listed on bills as "QIP" or "Qualifying Infrastructure Plant Surchg" or "Qual Infrastructure Charge." It was approved by lawmakers nine years ago and is set to expire in 2023.

CUB said that Peoples Gas customers were told it would cost them only $13/year. But CUB said some customers are paying more than $13/month – adding up to $150/year.

On Monday, CUB called for support of Illinois House Bill 3941/Senate Bill 570, sponsored by State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) and State Rep. Joyce Mason (D-Gurnee), which the group said would eliminate the "QIP" surcharge.


"Peoples Gas is overhauling their entire system rather than focusing on the most dangerous projects," said State Sen. Castro. "Ameren and Nicor are still charging their natural gas surcharge, despite already replacing the most risky systems."

But a spokesperson for Peoples Gas said that eliminating the surcharge might only have a small impact on rising gas bills, which are driven by market prices that have been soaring around the world.

"The truth is that 90% of the increase in this winter's bills is due to the cost of natural gas, which Peoples Gas does not set and does not profit from at all," said Peoples Gas spokesperson David Schwartz. "The system modernization program, which is replacing corroding, leaky pipes from as far back as the 1800s, accounts for just $2 of the monthly increase from last year."

In a statement provided to FOX 32 Chicago, Nicor Gas said: "Increased demand stemming from people spending more time and using more natural gas at home, dropping temperatures and economic inflation, have caused natural gas prices to rise around the world and right here in Illinois. Nicor Gas cannot make a profit on these increased prices and instead the market price is passed on to the customer through a highly regulated rate process. This natural gas cost currently makes up about 70% of the total charges Nicor Gas residential customers see on their bills."