Despite the fact that last year was not particularly cold, at least by Chicago standards, far fewer customers paid their heating bills. In 2017, so-called “customer non-payments” to Peoples Gas totaled $58.2 million dollars. That was up from $26.5 million in 2016. Remember the polar vortex? That was back in 2014. For that year, the uncollectible bills stood at $37 million.
So, what’s going on here? Crain’s Chicago Business senior reporter dug into the numbers and concluded that what we’re seeing is the start of a heating affordability crisis in Chicago. Peoples has been pouring money into capital spending to replace aging gas mains, and as a result, it has levied more and more surcharges on customers, surcharges that many Chicagoans cannot afford. Morning Shift talks to Steve Daniels about Peoples Gas.