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Chicago Sun-Times: Illinois Needs More Oversight of Natural Gas Utilities

Posted by Samarth Medakkar on Apr 11, 2023

In a letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, Samarth Medakkar writes about equitable consumer protection enforcement for all utilities.

Recently, Gov. J.B. Pritzker wrote an opinion piece on the need for legislation that would make natural gas utilities more accountable to Illinoisans by increasing oversight of their spending on financially risky infrastructure projects. He’s right.For too long, gas utility system investments have been left entirely up to the gas utilities themselves, which have strong financial incentives to grow indefinitely. This means spending billions and billions of customers’ dollars — via some of the highest fixed charges on our monthly bills in the country — on pipelines that might soon be made obsolete because of high-performing, high-efficiency electric appliances for home and water heating.

The energy transition is driving a major shift in the way we power our homes, businesses and schools. As more Illinoisans choose to retrofit their indoor spaces with clean technologies like heat pumps, heat pump water heaters and electric stoves, these people will likely cease being customers of gas utilities. As a result, gas bills for those who don’t make the switch early to all-electric appliances — or can’t, due to the up-front cost — are likely to experience higher bills as there are fewer gas customers left to pay off all of that brand-new pipeline infrastructure. 

The only way to mitigate this problem is to plan for it. The first step is to start regulating gas utilities the way we already regulate electric utilities. We should require long-term system planning requirements, aggressive energy efficiency goals, financial incentives and penalties that align with our decarbonization goals. We should enforce equitable consumer protections on every regulated energy monopoly operating in the state, regardless of the energy type that they deliver. 

We hope the legislature is ready for the challenge of aligning our gas utility laws with our state’s ambitious decarbonization and energy affordability goals, just as they were ready in 2021 to transform the electricity sector for the better. A transition plan cannot wait.

Read the full LTE here.

Topics: United In The News, Samarth Medakkar