CHICAGO, Jan. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An unusually mild start to the winter, some of the lowest natural gas prices in years, and simple energy-efficiency steps at home have the potential to save northern Illinois consumers nearly $150 this winter, easily wiping out the impact of recent rate hikes in the region, according to a Citizens Utility Board (CUB) analysis released Monday.
At a news conference, CUB pointed to the latest forecast from the federal Energy Information Administration's Short-Term Energy Outlook showing that Midwest natural gas users could spend 9.1 percent less to heat their homes this winter (Oct.-March), for estimated average savings of $72. Energy efficiency will only add to those savings, and, based on past performance, CUB estimated that people using its online service, www.CUBEnergySaver.com, could potentially save an additional $77 on gas and electric bills, for total winter savings of $149.
Expand those estimates to roughly 3.26 million households across northern Illinois, and potential savings reach $485 million.
"Chicago winters usually don't hold good news for our heating bills," CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen said. "But consumers in 2012 have a unique opportunity to save money and to use energy efficiency to make even deeper cuts in their costs. Before the winter weather becomes too harsh, they should seize the moment to offset about $60 million in gas rate hikes, and CUB Energy Saver can help."
CUBEnergySaver.com is a free service that gives consumers hundreds of actions they can take to cut gas and electric bills. As an added incentive, CUB Energy Saver is the only tool of its kind that allows households to connect to their Commonwealth Edison accounts to track actual reductions in energy waste. Consumers are rewarded for those reductions with points—two for every kilowatt-hour saved—that are redeemed for shopping and restaurant discounts. CUB pledged to give away a month of free heat, up to $150, to one lucky consumer who joins CUB Energy Saver in the month of January and connects to his or her ComEd account.
Since 2010, CUBEnergySaver.com has shown consumers how to save $1.9 million on their gas and electric bills.
Late last year, Illinois' gas utilities reported that heating prices could remain low into 2018, thanks to increased gas production. The mild weather at the onset of winter also helped. This month, Peoples Gas is charging 41.9 cents per therm, Nicor Gas is charging 44 cents per therm, and North Shore Gas, 47.65 cents per therm—prices that are 7 percent to 10 percent lower than last January. A therm is the amount of energy used to run a typical furnace for one hour.
But utilities also report that a number of factors could push prices up, such as a stronger economy and more use of natural gas in mass transit systems. Plus, just last week, state regulators granted Peoples Gas a $57.8 million rate hike that could increase the delivery portion of bills by roughly $4 a month. North Shore Gas was granted a $1.9 million increase. CUB is appealing the case.
"Nobody, especially in Chicago, should rely on the weather or the potentially volatile gas market to lower their bills," Chilsen said. "Energy efficiency is the most reliable way to cut your costs and that's why we created CUB Energy Saver."
CUBEnergySaver.com, created by CUB and New York City-based Efficiency 2.0, has a comprehensive list of no-cost and low-cost actions that people can use to save money on their electric and natural gas bills. Here are some of the easiest:
- Turn down thermostat to 67 degrees;
- Reduce air leakage;
- Reduce water heater temperature to 120 degrees;
- Turn down thermostat at night to 62 degrees;
- Close blinds on winter nights.
CUB is Illinois' leading nonprofit utility watchdog organization. Created by the Illinois Legislature, CUB opened its doors in 1984 to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. Since then, CUB has helped save consumers more than $10 billion by blocking rate hikes and securing refunds. For more information, call CUB's Consumer Hotline at 1-800-669-5556, or visit www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org.
Efficiency 2.0 is a leading energy efficiency software and program administration company. It delivers efficiency and demand response benefits to utility and government partners by maximizing household engagement. Efficiency 2.0's programs and software help consumers and businesses across the country better manage their energy costs. For more information, visit www.efficiency20.com.
SOURCE Citizens Utility Board