The idea behind “Choices for You”—the program allowing Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas customers to choose an alternative company to supply their natural gas–is that you can shop around for the best gas price. But the history of gas choice in northern Illinois has been riddled with bad deals and questionable door-to-door marketing techniques, which is why CUB carefully monitors alternative supplier rates each week.
We were shocked this month to discover that variable rates—prices that change on a monthly basis—offered by Peoples Gas/ North Shore Gas competitors skyrocketed to more than 80 cents per therm! That’s a hefty difference from the 51.83 cents per therm variable rate offered by Peoples and 56.75 cents by North Shore.
But maybe we shouldn’t be too shocked, given Wednesday’s headlines that wholesale gas prices reached a five-year high. At least for now, it appears that hedging—the utilities’ gas buying and management strategies—is protecting customers from the big price spikes of 2014. But, as CUB said in a news release earlier this week, wild market spikes in January could put utility customers on the hook for higher rates in the future.
So be careful and stay up to date on price changes with CUB’s fact sheet on gas choice in Chicago. It includes the current utility rates so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison between what the utilities and their competitors charge. Choice is always good—as long as it’s informed choice.