Ameren Illinois utility (AmerenCIPS, AmerenCILCO and AmerenIP) natural gas customers can expect price stability and adequate supplies during the upcoming winter heating season.
“We believe the average price for all Ameren Illinois utility customers will be in the range of 80 to 85 cents per therm. This is comparable to the average price paid by our customers one year ago,” said Ameren Vice President of Gas Supply and System Control Scott A. Glaeser.
“In addition, our natural gas supplies and storage inventory levels are sufficient to meet all anticipated demand during this winter heating season,” Glaeser added. “However, there could be upward pressure on Ameren’s PGA rates in the event of an energy market disruption, such as a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico threatening off-shore natural gas production or an oil supply disturbance in the Middle East.”
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. 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 (www.ameren.com) under “Historical PGA Rates” for AmerenCIPS and AmerenCILCO and “Historical Gas Charges” for AmerenIP.
Customer natural gas usage is measured in therms. A therm equals 100,000 British thermal units (Btus) and is roughly equivalent to 100 cubic feet of natural gas at standard temperature and pressure.
While the price of natural gas is set by the open market, the delivery service rate charged by the Ameren Illinois utilities is regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). The delivery service rate will remain unchanged during the winter heating season.
The Ameren Illinois utilities strive to keep natural gas costs at stable and reasonable levels for their customers, while dampening the effects of market volatility and price spikes from the wholesale gas markets. The company utilizes sophisticated financial strategies and negotiates both long- and short-term natural gas supply contracts.
The Ameren Illinois utilities purchase natural gas at lower prices and inject the natural gas into extensive underground storage fields during the spring and summer months. These storage fields provide almost half of the natural gas required during a typical winter heating season.
Though natural gas prices are expected to remain stable through the heating season, customer bills may be higher than last year if temperatures are colder. Typically, customers use more natural gas as temperatures grow colder.
There are a number of steps customers can take to better manage their energy bills. For example, customers may enroll in the 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 (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. There is no charge to enroll.
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.
Additional money-saving conservation tips are available on the Ameren Web site.
The Ameren Illinois utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 800,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.
Heating Season Tips from Ameren
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.
• Never place a thermostat on an exterior wall, where it may be affected by outdoor temperatures.
• Consider replacing a thermostat that is 10 years old or older with a newer model for greater accuracy and efficiency.
• Regularly change or wash (depending on type) furnace filters. This is especially important if you have pets.
• Take advantage of solar heat by opening curtains, blinds and shades on sunny days. Close curtains, blinds and shades at night.
• Have your heating system checked and serviced by a professional before the start of the heating system. Improperly operating fossil fuel furnaces can pose serious health and safety hazards.
• Check for heating system duct air leaks. Begin by sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement or garage by using duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap the ducts in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, seal ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house. Properly sealed ducts can improve your heating system’s efficiency by up to 20 percent.
• Replace incandescent bulbs with Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Unlike incandescent bulbs, CFLS emit little heat and last seven or more years.
• Use low-cost ceiling fans or other types of circulating fans. Fans help to evenly distribute air, eliminating both hot and cold spots.
• Set the water heater thermostat to the 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or “low”) setting. Higher temperatures not only are unnecessary, but pose a safety hazard for children. Use the “vacation” or “standby” setting when away from home for an extended period of time.
• Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to drain a quart of water from the water heater every 3 month to remove sediments that cause the water heater to use more energy.
• When not in use, keep fireplace and wood stove dampers closed.
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.
• Use of weather-stripping and caulking prevents outside air infiltration.
• Make certain exterior doors have a tight fit.
• Consider replacing old windows. Storm or dual-glazed windows can reduce heat gain by as much as 50 percent.
• Look for the Energy Star label when buying appliances, lights, heating and cooling equipment, home electronic products, office equipment and more. Energy Star consumers save money. In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the Energy Star program saved consumers about $9 billion in energy bills, or enough energy to power 20 million homes. For information, call 1-888-STAR-YES or visit: www.energystar.gov.
• Significant savings can be realized by installing a high-efficiency heating system. An Energy Star qualified high-efficiency heating system can save you up to 20 percent on energy costs.
• Uncle Sam has some good news for those who are interested in making your home more energy efficient. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 makes federal tax credits available for numerous home improvements that increase energy efficiency, including qualified insulation materials, replacement windows, exterior doors and central air conditioners. Additional information is available at the Energy Star Web site (www.energystar.gov). Remember, these tax credits are set to expire at the end of this year.
• The Ameren Illinois utilities recommend customers enroll in the Budget Billing plan. This free service allows customers to pay the same amount each month of the year. Customers can enroll on the Ameren Web site (www.ameren.com) or by calling toll-free 888-789-2477.
• 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 a free copy of “Planting Trees” for more details on proper tree selection, send an e-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONTACT: Media: Erica Abbett, +1-314-206-0646, (Metro East), or Natalie Hemmer, +1-217-424-7541 (Decatur), or Neal Johnson, +1-309-677-5516 (Peoria), or Leigh Morris, +1-217-535-5228 (Springfield)