ICC approves increase in Ameren Illinois’ natural gas delivery charge

Beginning in February, the delivery service portion of the monthly bill for the typical residential natural gas customer will increase by about $2.30, Ameren Illinois says.

Following what the utility called a transparent, 11-month review process, the Illinois Commerce Commission this week approved Ameren Illinois’ plan to strengthen its natural gas delivery infrastructure, which the utility says will ensure pipeline safety and service reliability for Downstate customers.

Ameren Illinois’ natural gas bills remain lower than the national average, the company said.

Under its natural gas modernization program, Ameren Illinois has replaced more than 200 miles of mechanically coupled steel pipeline, 100 miles of vintage steel pipes, and more than 70 natural gas regulator stations. Along with implementation of new technology to monitor and adjust pipeline pressurization, these projects have delivered increased safety and reliability, supported downstate growth, and created hundreds of jobs in central and southern Illinois.

“The approved plan enables us to continue making prudent investments in the energy delivery system to meet the needs of our customers today while providing resiliency and flexibility for the future,” said Theresa Shaw, senior vice president of Regulatory Affairs and Financial Services for Ameren Illinois. “We are mindful of the economic challenges that some of our customers and communities are facing because of COVID-19 and will remain focused on providing safe and reliable services at rates that are fair and as low as possible.”

Reaction from Citizens Utility Board

CUB said it and other consumer advocates helped to shrink Ameren Illinois’ natural gas rate hike by more than 25 percent, eliminating $26 million from the amount the company had sought.

“The ruling inflates the profit rate for shareholders, which results in unreasonably high rates. We are reviewing the order for any opportunity to challenge the ruling,” CUB said in a statement.

*On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Illinois Commerce Commission granted Ameren Illinois a $76.129 million natural gas rate hike, an increase of about 17.7 percent on the company’s delivery rates.  The company originally requested a $102.031 million increase in February 2020.

*The company received a 9.67 percent Return on Equity (ROE), or profit rate for shareholders. CUB argued that the gas utility, at best, should get an ROE of about 9.3 percent. The consumer group partnered with Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers (IIEC) to present two witnesses and argue for the overall rate hike to be reduced by at least $36.2 million (about $21 million of that was attributable to CUB’s recommended ROE),” the statement said.

*This increase impacts delivery rates, which take up about a third to a half of gas bills. Delivery charges cover the costs of delivering gas to homes—plus a profit.

Bill relief 

Ameren Illinois has provided more than $9 million in bill payment assistance to customers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional relief measures for residential customers include:

– Flexible repayment plans to retire a past due balance.
– Grants for customers who meet income qualification guidelines. Visit WarmNeighborsCoolFriends.org for a list of partner agencies, AmerenIllinois.com/Recovery, or call Ameren Illinois at 800-755-5000.
– Financial Assistance from the Illinois Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Visit HelpIllinois Families.com or call 877-411-9276 for qualifications and guidelines.
– Moratorium on service disconnections until March 31, 2021.

 Tips for reducing energy costs 

– Periodically replace the air filters for heating systems, clean air vents regularly and make sure drapes or furniture do not block any of the vents or returns.
– Open window shades in the fall and winter to allow the sunlight to help heat rooms.
– Change to energy-efficient LEDs for lighting.
– Use adequate insulation in the attic, ceilings, walls, floors and crawlspaces. Seal air leaks with caulk and use weather stripping around exterior doors and windows.
– Install a smart thermostat to save all year round. With the help of a smart thermostat, customers can save up to 15 percent on their home energy bills. Eligible Ameren Illinois customers can take advantage of a $100 rebate on the cost of these devices.

To learn more about Ameren Illinois’ electric and gas modernization programs, visit AmerenIllinois.com/reliability, Facebook.com/AmerenIllinois, and Twitter @AmerenIllinois

This story has been updated to include the reaction from the Citizens Utility Board.

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