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Ameren Illinois anticipates steady natural gas prices for 2012-13 heating season

Ameren Illinois customers can expect a continuation of moderate natural gas prices during the upcoming 2012-13 heating season.

“We anticipate customer natural gas prices for this winter will be similar to prices paid last winter,” said Ameren Illinois Gas Supply Manager Ken Dothage. “This moderate trend in natural gas prices is the result of increased North American natural gas supply due to the rapid development of shale gas throughout the U.S., continued sluggish domestic and global economies and soft worldwide demand for all forms of energy.”

During the 2011-12 heating season, Ameren Illinois customers paid an average of $0.59 per therm which includes the cost of interstate gas transportation, leased storage, and the natural gas commodity. Ameren Illinois anticipates the 2011-12 heating average season price to remain flat as compared to last year.

An actual monthly bill is based on the amount of natural gas a customer uses. The 2011-12 heating season was unusually mild, resulting in less natural gas being used by many residential customers. However, customers can expect to use more natural gas if there is a return to more normal temperatures during the 2012-13 heating season. This most likely would result in higher overall bills as compared to last winter.

Dothage also stressed that Ameren Illinois has secured adequate natural gas supplies to meet customer needs during the upcoming heating season. He noted that Ameren Illinois has a significant portion of its natural gas supplies hedged or “price protected” for the upcoming winter to insulate customers from market price volatility.

Natural gas is a commodity which Ameren Illinois purchases from various producers for delivery to its customers. Ameren Illinois does not profit from or mark-up the cost of natural gas supplies purchased.

“While the expectation of stable natural gas prices are welcomed, we recognize and continue to be concerned about the impact the cost of heating may have on our customers,” Dothage said. “We will continue to help our customers understand this issue and provide the information they need to better manage their energy usage.”

Customers are encouraged to adopt proven energy conservation practices that will help reduce bills without sacrificing personal comfort. Dothage said the place to begin is by visiting ActOnEnergy.com to review ActOnEnergy® savings tips.

At ActOnEnergy.com, Ameren Illinois customers can learn about important cash incentives. For example, an Ameren Illinois customer may receive an incentive of up to $300 when installing a qualified high-efficiency natural gas forced air furnace. Also, customers may receive a $25 rebate on the purchase of a qualified programmable thermostat.

An energy-efficient home provides a higher level of comfort and greater cost savings. Discounts are available through the ActOnEnergy Home Energy Performance (HEP) program. The HEP program offers incentives to registered ActOnEnergy Program Allies, which they pass on in cost savings to homeowners. Qualified measures include attic, wall and rim joist insulation as well as air and duct sealing.

In addition to the ActOnEnergy.com website, residential customers may obtain ActOnEnergy information by calling 1-866-838-6918 or sending an e-mail to: ActOnEnergyResidential@ameren.com.

Customers may enroll in the Budget Billing plan as a way to better manage their energy bills. This plan allows residential customers to pay the same amount each month. By enrolling now, customers can begin leveling out their monthly payments. The plan allows customers to pay an average monthly bill amount based on the last 12 months of usage. The payment level is periodically reviewed and adjusted as necessary. On the 12th month, the account is reviewed to calculate the difference between the amount of energy used during the year and the amount paid under Budget Billing. If the amount paid exceeds the actual cost of providing the energy, the customer receives a credit. If the amount billed is less than the actual cost of providing the energy, the customer is billed for the difference.

Customers may enroll in Budget Billing by visiting AmerenIllinois.com or by calling 1-800-755-5000. Customers may enroll in the program or drop out at any time. There is no charge to enroll in Budget Billing.

Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 813,000 natural gas customers in downstate Illinois, and our mission is to meet their energy needs in a safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally responsible manner. Our service area covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles. For more information, visit AmerenIllinois.com

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Heating Season Tips from Ameren Illinois

Saving Money Today
• You can save 2 to 3 percent on your heating costs for each degree you lower your thermostat during the heating season.
• Install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust your home’s temperature settings when you are away or sleeping. Ameren Illinois customers may visit ActOnEnergy.com or call 1-866-838-6918 for details on the $25 programmable thermostat rebate. A programmable thermostat may reduce energy bills by about $100 a year.
• Never place a thermostat on an exterior wall where it may be affected by outdoor temperatures.
• Regularly change or wash (depending on type) furnace filters. Most filters should be changed monthly. This is especially important if you have pets or when there is dust in the area.
• Take advantage of solar heat by opening curtains, blinds and shades on sunny days. Close curtains, blinds and shades on cloudy days and at night.
• Have your heating system checked and serviced by a professional before the start of the heating season. Improperly operating fossil fuel furnaces may pose serious health and safety hazards, as well as waste energy. Fireplace and wood-burning stove flues should be inspected and cleaned by a professional, as well.
• Install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your home, as required by state law.
• Check for heating system duct air leaks. Begin by sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement or garage by using a duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. Properly sealed ducts can improve your heating system’s efficiency by up to 20 percent. Visit ActOnEnergy.com, call1-866-838-6918 or send an e-mail to: ActOnEnergyResidential@ameren.com for details on the Home Energy Performance Program.
• Replace incandescent lights with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Unlike incandescent lights, CFLs emit little heat and may last seven or more years. Ameren Illinois customers may purchase CFLs from participating retailers, online or by phone. For CFL details, visit ActOnEnergy.com, send an e-mail to ActOnEnergyResidential@ameren.com or call1-866-845-7085.
• Use low-cost ceiling fans or other types of circulating fans. Fans help to evenly distribute air, eliminating both hot and cold spots. When used properly, many people find they are able to lower their thermostats a few degrees in the winter and raise the thermostat a few degrees during the summer months.
• When not in use, keep fireplace and wood stove dampers closed. This will help keep warm air in your home.

Look in on others
• Check in on the elderly and those with medical conditions to make certain they are safe and comfortable.

Saving Money Tomorrow
• There is no substitute for insulation. Add insulation if attic floor joists are visible. Visit ActOnEnergy.com, call1-866-838-6918 or send an e-mail to: ActOnEnergyResidential@ameren.com for details on the Home Energy Performance Program.
• Weather-stripping and caulking helps prevents drafts, keeping homes warmer while saving energy.
• Make certain exterior doors have a tight fit.
• Look for the ENERGY STAR qualified label when buying appliances, lights, heating and cooling equipment, doors, windows, home electronic products, office equipment and more.
• For ENERGY STAR information, visit www.energystar.gov or call 1-888-782-7937.
• Significant savings may be realized by installing a high-efficiency heating system. An ENERGY STAR qualified high-efficiency heating system may save you up to $300 on your annual energy costs. Visit ActOnEnergy.com to learn about incentives.
• Ameren Illinois recommends customers enroll in the Budget Billing plan. This service allows customers to pay the same amount each month of the year. For information or to enroll in Budget Billing, customers may call 1-800-755-5000 or visit ActOnEnergy.com.
• Plant trees around the house. Trees substantially reduce energy use by shading roofs and walls from the summer sun and serving as a barrier against winter winds. For more information, visit MySafeTrees.com.

CONTACT: Leigh Morris, 217.535.5228, lmorris@ameren.com; Victoria Busch, 618.346.1286, vbusch@ameren.com