SPRINGFIELD, PEORIA and DECATUR, Ill., March 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Ameren Illinois utility (AmerenCIPS, AmerenCILCO and AmerenIP) natural gas customers have received positive news in the form of significantly lower natural gas costs as compared to one year ago.
The cost of natural gas (shown as the "Gas Charge" on customer bills) has averaged about 80 cents per therm for Ameren Illinois utility customers during January and February. By contrast, the Gas Charge averaged about $1.10 per therm during the same period in 2006.
Nonetheless, Ameren Illinois utility customers may receive natural gas bills that are higher than a year ago.
Temperatures have been much colder during the first two months of 2007 as compared to the same period last year. Sharply colder temperatures meant customers used more natural gas to keep their homes and businesses warm.
For reference, January 2007 was approximately 35 percent colder than January 2006. The first two weeks of February were about 60 percent colder than a year ago.
There are a number of steps customers can take to better manage their energy bills. For example, customers may enroll in the free Budget Billing plan. This plan allows 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 program is open to electric-only, natural gas-only and combination electric and natural gas customers.
Customers may enroll in Budget Billing by visiting Ameren's Web site ( http://www.ameren.com/ ) or by calling their Ameren Illinois utility company (AmerenCIPS: 888-789-2477, AmerenCILCO: 888-672-5252, and AmerenIP: 800-755-5000). Customers may enroll in the program or drop out at any time.
Customers also are encouraged to adopt energy conservation practices. For example, customers should regularly change furnace filters, open shades and curtains on sunny days to take advantage of solar heat and use caulk and weather stripping to block drafts.
Customers may also consider setting thermostats a little lower. Each degree a thermostat is lowered can reduce heating costs by 2 to 3 percent. Ceiling and other circulating fans can be used to push warm air from ceilings. Humidifiers will help keep homes comfortable at somewhat lower temperatures.
A complete list of conservation ideas is available on the Ameren Web site in the "My Home" section.
The Ameren Illinois utilities purchase natural gas from gas producers located in various U.S. natural gas production areas. The wholesale price is not regulated, but rises and falls based upon market conditions caused by supply and demand. The Ameren utilities pass the cost of natural gas on to customers, dollar for dollar without any markup in price, through the Gas Charge (also referred to as the PGA, which means "purchased gas adjustment"). About three-fourths of a residential customer's bill is the actual cost of natural gas from these suppliers recovered through the Gas Charge, without any markup in price.
The Ameren Illinois utilities do not profit from the Gas Charge. The Gas Charge is recomputed each month and may go up or down depending on the wholesale price of natural gas. The Gas Charge is a matter of public record and is available on the Ameren Web site ( http://www.ameren.com/ ) under "Historical PGA Rates" for AmerenCIPS and AmerenCILCO and "Historical Gas Charges" for AmerenIP.
The Ameren Illinois utilities also strive to keep natural gas costs at stable and reasonable rates for their customers, while dampening the effects of market volatility and price spikes from the wholesale gas markets. The company utilizes sophisticated financial hedging strategies and negotiates both long- and short-term natural gas supply contracts.
Also, Ameren purchases natural gas at lower prices and injects the natural gas into extensive underground storage fields, which provide almost half of the natural gas required during the winter heating season.
Ameren utilizes a number of interstate pipeline suppliers, accessing multiple production areas to bring natural gas to Illinois.
Ameren has secured adequate supplies of natural gas to meet customer needs.
Ameren, through its subsidiaries, serves 2.3 million electric and nearly one million natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area of Illinois and Missouri.
SOURCE: Ameren Corp.
CONTACT: Leigh E. Morris, +1-217-535-5228, or Natalie Hemmer,
+1-217-424-7541, or Erica Abbett, +1-317-206-0646, or Neal Johnson,
+1-309-677-5516, all of Ameren Corp.
Web site: http://www.ameren.com/