The PSC decision clears the way for 4,200 Aquila customers in Rolla, Salem and Owensville, Mo., to become customers of AmerenUE. However, the transfer will not become effective until the two companies formally close on the transaction, currently expected around May 3.
In addition to the transfer of customers, the transaction involves about 164 miles of natural gas distribution mains, plus local assets needed to operate the system, such as trucks and other equipment. Locally based Aquila employees currently serving the area will become AmerenUE employees, with engineering and technical support provided by AmerenUE's Central Ozarks Division, headquartered in Jefferson City.
Natural gas delivery rates for the Rolla, Salem and Owensville customers transferred to AmerenUE will remain the same as the existing Aquila rates and will be subject to a rate freeze that extends until 2006. In addition, as the PSC announced March 29, a proposed Aquila rate increase will not affect those customers transferred to AmerenUE.
However, customers' total bills will continue to fluctuate\-both up and down\-due to seasonal changes in usage and changes in the Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA), which reflects changes in the wholesale cost of gas from the company's suppliers.
"Now that the PSC has approved this transaction, we're working to complete the process and ensure a smooth transition for our new customers," says David A. Whiteley, Ameren senior vice president, Energy Delivery. "We will soon mail a packet to all customers in the communities involved, providing details on the company's services, contact numbers and bill payment options, along with important gas safety information."
Upon becoming AmerenUE customers, Rolla, Salem and Owensville residents will be able to use a wide range of online services through the company's Web site (www.ameren.com). Customers will be able to view summaries of their recent bills and payments, change their billing address, and perform other account- related services. However, to use those services, customers will need their new AmerenUE account number to create a user ID and password online.
Upon registering, customers will also be able to use AmerenUE's Energy Savings Toolkit that enables them to analyze their bills, find out where their energy dollars are going and calculate the savings potential of energy efficient appliances.
In addition to using online bill payment or paying their bills by mail, Rolla customers will be able to pay their AmerenUE bills locally at Payroll Advance, 1037 Kingshighway, while Owensville customers will be able to pay their bills at the City of Owensville, 107 W. Sears Ave. AmerenUE is working to set up a local pay station in Salem.
Among other customer account and billing issues:
• Any deposit currently held by Aquila on a customer's account, including the interest earned on that deposit, will be returned to the customer as a credit on the customer's first AmerenUE bill.
• AmerenUE's Budget Billing program, similar to Aquila's StreamLINE program, enables customers to pay a regular amount each month\-avoiding the peak that comes with winter heating. Customers currently on StreamLINE will not have to re-enroll with AmerenUE to participate in Budget Billing.
• Special payment agreements some customers have made with Aquila will not be converted automatically from Aquila accounts to AmerenUE accounts. After the acquisition becomes effective, customers with such agreements should call toll-free 1-800-552-7583 to set up a new payment agreement with AmerenUE.
• Like Aquila, AmerenUE uses SpeedPay to enable customers to pay bills by phone or over the Internet. SpeedPay charges a convenience fee for each transaction.
• AmerenUE's Direct Pay program, like Aquila's CheckLINE program, enables a customer to have the monthly utility bill automatically deducted from a checking or savings account on the due date of that bill. However, a customer's existing Aquila CheckLINE service will not transfer automatically to that customer's new AmerenUE account. Customers who wish to use Direct Pay for their new AmerenUE natural gas account may sign up by using the registration form found in the Payment Options brochure that is being mailed to each home.
With assets of more than $14 billion, Ameren owns a diverse mix of electric generating plants strategically located in its Midwest market with a capacity of more than 14,600 megawatts. Ameren serves 1.7 million electric customers and 500,000 natural gas customers in a 49,000-square-mile area of Missouri and Illinois.
Based in Kansas City, Mo., Aquila operates electricity and natural gas distribution networks serving customers in seven U.S. states and in Canada. Aquila also owns and operates power generation assets.