PEORIA, Ill., March 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Colder than average winter temperatures mean that many Ameren Illinois Utility customers are using more natural gas this heating season than last year, resulting in higher natural gas bills.
With temperatures running about 6.5 percent colder during the November 2007 through February 2008 period as compared to the same period one year ago, Ameren Illinois Utility customers are on average using more natural gas this heating season than last season. Overall natural gas usage is up by about 7.5 percent as compared to last year's heating season.
There are steps customers can take to better manage their energy bills. For example, residential customers may enroll in the Budget Billing plan. 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 Ameren's Web site (http://www.ameren.com/) or by calling their Ameren Illinois Utility company (AmerenCIPS: 1-888-789-2477, AmerenCILCO:1-888-672-5252, and AmerenIP: 1-800-755-5000). Customers may enroll in the program or drop out at any time. There is no cost to enroll in Budget Billing.
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 suggestions is available on the Ameren Web site in the "My Home" section under "Energy Savings Tips."
Also, the Ameren Illinois Utilities have filed an energy efficiency plan with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) designed to help customers save money by reducing their natural gas usage.
"Through this comprehensive natural gas energy efficiency plan, we can better help customers save money by using less natural gas without sacrificing personal comfort or safety," said Stan Ogden, vice president for Customer Service and Public Relations for the Ameren Illinois Utilities.
Ogden said this natural gas energy efficiency plan, expected to be approved later this year, will compliment the Ameren Illinois Utilities' comprehensive electric energy efficiency plan that was approved by the ICC on Feb. 6, 2008.
"Electric energy efficiency programs will be launched later this year and are designed to provide customers with incentives to help them reduce their energy usage," Ogden said. "Working in tandem, these two programs can provide customers with the tools they need to better control their energy usage and realize significant dollar savings through lower monthly natural gas and electric bills."
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 Illinois Utilities pass the cost of natural gas on to customers, dollar for dollar without any profit or 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.
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 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 utilities utilize sophisticated financial hedging strategies and negotiate both long -- and short-term natural gas supply contracts.
The Ameren Illinois Utilities utilize a number of interstate pipeline suppliers, accessing multiple production areas to bring natural gas to Illinois.
The Ameren Illinois Utilities have secured adequate supplies of natural gas to meet customer needs.
The Ameren Illinois Utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 840,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.
SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities
CONTACT: Leigh Morris, +1-217-535-5228, or Neal Johnson,
+1-309-677-5284, both for Ameren Illinois Utilities
Web site: http://www.ameren.com/