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Arctic Blast Sets New Record for Natural Gas Usage Ameren Illinois Utilities Offer Advice on Controlling Energy Bills

PEORIA, Ill., Jan. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Due to extreme arctic winter temperatures, Ameren Illinois Utilities customers overall have used 13 percent more natural gas over the past 30 days as compared to the same period last year, resulting in higher natural gas bills for many customers.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities established a record peak day demand for natural gas of 13.6 million therms on Jan. 15. The utilities serve more than 840,000 natural gas customers, but this record demand would be sufficient to heat about 3 million homes on an average winter day. A therm is used to measure natural gas usage.

"When customers use more natural gas because of the extreme cold temperatures, they will see higher than normal bills and that is of concern to us," said Stan Ogden, vice president for Customer Service and Public Relations for the Ameren Illinois Utilities.

"We continue to encourage customers to enroll in Budget Billing and to use less natural gas by taking steps designed to help them better manage their energy bills. 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. It is not too late to take those actions today."

Temperature data shows that there have been 18 percent more heating degree days in the Peoria area this heating season than last year, 15 percent more in the Springfield area and 13 percent more in the Marion area. A heating degree day is a measurement used to estimate the demand for energy.

Residential customers may begin by enrolling in the Budget Billing plan. This plan allows residential customers to pay the same amount each month. 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. By enrolling now, customers can begin leveling out their monthly payments.

Customers may enroll in Budget Billing by visiting Ameren's Web site (www.ameren.com) or by calling the Ameren Illinois Utilities (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 efficiency and conservation practices, which will allow them to pay less by using less energy. 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 detailed list of energy efficiency and conservation suggestions is available on the new Act On Energy™ Web site (www.ActOnEnergy.com) by selecting the "Energy Savings Tips" menu item.

Should the colder temperatures continue into February, the impact will be somewhat softened by a further decline in the cost of natural gas paid by residential customers. Natural gas prices for February 2009 are as follows: AmerenCILCO - $0.77 per therm, down 9.2 percent from January; AmerenCIPS - $0.84 per therm, down 6.5 percent from January, and AmerenIP - $0.77 per therm, down 9.8 percent from January. The cost of gas appears on customer bills as the Gas Charge (also referred to as the PGA, which means "purchased gas adjustment").

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 typical 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 (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.

Editor's Notes: Customers' natural gas usage is listed on bills as therms, which is a measurement of the heat content of the natural gas. One therm is equal to 100,000 British thermal units (Btus). One Btu represents the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit at sea level.

    Leigh Morris        Victoria Busch        Neal Johnson
    1-217-535-5228      1-618-346-1286        1-309-677-5284

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities

Web site: http://www.ActOnEnergy.com/