COFI and POWER-PAC IL Win Major Utility Victory for Families

People protesting in front of Peoples Gas headquarters

A huge congratulations to POWER-PAC IL’s Stepping Out of Poverty Campaign for organizing and calling out the outlandish rate hike proposals from Peoples Gas, Ameren, and Nicor for nearly a year! On Nov. 16, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) significantly reduced the proposals for all three utility companies – Ameren’s proposal was reduced by 50.8%, Nicor’s was decreased by 30.3%, and Peoples Gas was slashed by 25%.

Additionally, the ICC approved recommendations from COFI/POWER-PAC IL, the National Consumer Law Center, and Legal Aid Chicago to implement low-income discount rates for Peoples Gas, Nicor, and Ameren customers and lower fixed customer charges for each of the utilities.

“Each month, families across Illinois open unaffordable utility bills that force us to make difficult decisions to avoid disconnection,” said Donna Carpenter, Co-Chair of COFI’s Stepping Out of Poverty Campaign and Co-President of COFI’s POWER-PAC Illinois. “We thank the commissioners at the ICC for truly listening to us, the financially struggling utility customers, and for acknowledging that continuous rate increases are simply unaffordable for so many of us across the state. This is an amazing step in the right direction!”

Six POWER-PAC IL parent leaders and COFI staff stand outside Chicago's City Hall with signs about lowering heating bills. Prior to this, they attended the 10.19.2023 ICC Meeting to urge the Commission to reject the rate hikes and make utilities more affordable.
POWER-PAC IL parent leaders and COFI staff joined the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition on Oct. 16 to call on Chicago city officials to support the Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance. COFI/POWER-PAC IL also joined the coalition at the ICC meeting and urged them to reject the proposed rate hikes.

The Low-Income Discount Rate and Lower Fixed Charges

The five-tiered discount rate will apply to the customer’s whole bill rather than the fixed costs, typically representing a small portion of a consumer’s bill. This decision signals that, for the first time, a Commission decision has specifically addressed affordability for financially struggling customers.

The lower customer charge means the utility companies will be required to reduce the fixed customer charge on utility bills. Peoples Gas customers, for example, were being charged about $60 during the summer months when families and individuals often don’t use their heat.

There’s still more work to do as families navigate utility payment plans and risk getting kicked off for minor offenses. But these recommendations are a big step to helping Illinois families thrive and ending cycles of poverty and debt that disproportionately harm low-income communities. Stay in the loop about utilities updates and sign up for our newsletter.

Read more about this win in the National Consumer Law Center press release.