These factors could be the weather, new appliances or just the number of days in the billing cycle that would make up differences in a customer's monthly bill. The program integrates these and other variables to calculate a customer's savings or costs for everything from installing insulation to buying new appliances.
The toolkit also allows customers to analyze their bills, calculate the savings potential of energy efficient appliances or find out what portion of their energy use goes to heating, cooling, laundry and other activities. Once customers know where energy is being used, they can learn ways to reduce energy costs. In fact, customers can even calculate what a new addition or some other change in their homes has cost \- or saved \- them.
Creation of this Web-based tool --- funded at $1 million as an on-going initiative with new enhancements over a four-year period-- is one of a number of programs that are part of the joint Missouri retail electric rate settlement, which includes $26 million in funding during the term of the plan for several important programs that benefit AmerenUE consumers. Since the funding was part of the Missouri rate case, this customized toolkit is only available to Missouri customers at this time.
Unlike many sites that require the visitor to answer a long questionnaire, the toolkit asks a few questions and offers immediate suggestions. It prompts the visitor to dig deeper only if he or she is not satisfied and chooses to learn more.
The site is also pegged to AmerenUE-Missouri's actual rates, the weather patterns where the customer lives and that customer's actual usage. The comparisons offered are also those of similar real homes in a given area, based on AmerenUE rates and weather --- again, in the city or county where the customer actually lives.
The toolkit also includes an Energy Savings Tips Library where customers can become better-educated energy consumers. The library has tips for selecting, purchasing and installing heating and cooling systems, assessing the benefits of efficient lighting and water heating and efficiently storing and cooking food. It also offers a range of tips on weatherizing the home.
And to learn about the science, technology and even the history behind the energy industry, visitors to the site can go to the Ameren ENERGYsmart University. There they can learn more about energy sources, environmental impact and energy safety.
This new offering comes almost a year after the 2002 launch of Ameren's eCustomer site. Visitors to Ameren Corporation's Web site can now request a copy of a bill, view a range of billing information online, change a billing address, make rate calculations, check usage information and use the toolkit functions - all with the click of a mouse. Customers can also pay bills online - even using a credit card. These "self-service" online features make it easier for customers to sign up for, turn on or turn off services.
"We expect the toolkit to educate and provide customers with a range of options and a sense of control over their energy bills," says Energy Delivery Senior Vice President David A. Whiteley. "Essentially this toolkit is targeted to help customers determine what they are getting for their energy dollar and whether there are ways they can reduce their energy costs.
"Ameren's goal with its Web site, and in particular with the customer portion of the site, is to be helpful, informative, fast and available to our customers when they need it. This new service will give AmerenUE customers yet another reason to visit www.ameren.com."
With assets of $14.3 billion, Ameren serves 1.7 million electric customers and 500,000 natural gas customers in a 49,000-square-mile area of Missouri and Illinois.
# # #