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Utility customers may get breather again this year, Ameren says

Illinois Business Journal report
    COLLINSVILLE – For a second straight year, Ameren Illinois customers can look forward to a heating season where natural gas prices are lower than the national average.
    “We are fully prepared for the winter season and expect stable prices for Ameren Illinois customers,” Ameren Illinois Gas Supply Director Ken Dothage said recently.
    “Because of our price hedging and storage strategies along with the continued increase in natural gas production in the U.S., we anticipate that the gas supply portion of our customers’ bills will again be lower than the national average,” said Dothage. During the 2013-14 heating season which was 15 percent colder than normal, Ameren Illinois customers paid an average of 54 cents per therm. Ameren Illinois anticipates 2014-15 heating-season average prices to remain low in a range of 53 to 55 cents per therm.
    “We buy a significant amount of natural gas in the summer months when prices are typically lower and store it for use by our customers in the winter. Those savings are passed on to our customers,” said Dothage. “While the amount a customer pays will depend on winter temperatures and the actual amount of energy a customer uses, we have taken steps to insulate them from price volatility on the supply side.”
    A large portion of a customer’s monthly bill is gas supply costs – including the cost of interstate gas transportation, leased storage, and the natural gas commodity itself. Due to much colder temperatures last winter, residential customers used more natural gas. If temperatures return to normal in the 2014-15 heating season, most customers should see lower overall bills as compared to last year.
    Natural gas is a commodity that Ameren Illinois purchases from various producers for delivery to its customers. Ameren said it does not profit from or mark-up the cost of natural gas supplies purchased.
    Dothage stressed that Ameren Illinois has adequate natural gas supplies to meet customer needs during the upcoming heating season. This winter Ameren Illinois will control 38.6 billion cubic feet of working gas volumes through its 12 natural gas storage fields and storage capacity it leases from interstate pipelines. Working gas is the amount of gas which can be withdrawn in a winter season.

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