Metro-East News

Your gas bill could go up next year under new Ameren proposal

Ameren Illinois is asking to increase its natural gas rates as part of its modernization program. Under the proposal, a typical customer who uses 745 therms of natural gas a year would pay 24-cents more a month.
Ameren Illinois is asking to increase its natural gas rates as part of its modernization program. Under the proposal, a typical customer who uses 745 therms of natural gas a year would pay 24-cents more a month.

With Ameren Illinois in the midst of a multi-year modernization of its natural gas system, it is now asking for a rate increase of about a quarter a month from customers.

The proposal was filed this week with the Illinois Commerce Commission and if approved, the increase would go in effect in January 2019. The ICC is expected to make a decision by the end of 2018. The adjustment is the first Ameren has sought for natural gas service in three years.

“This plan will enable us to continue investing in a more modern natural gas delivery infrastructure while strengthening pipeline safety,” said Richard Mark, chairman and president, Ameren Illinois.

If the ICC approves the plan as filed, the typical customer using 745 therms annually will pay on average about 24 cents per month more on the natural gas delivery portion of their bill, Ameren said in a news release.

Ameren started its upgrading its natural gas lines in 2015.

Under the company’s multi-year natural gas modernization program, Ameren Illinois is replacing older, steel distribution pipeline with polyethylene gas pipe that is resistant to corrosion and lasts for decades, the utility said. Transmission pipelines, regulator stations and other natural gas distribution equipment and technology are also being upgraded or replaced.

Ameren spokeswoman Marcelyn Love said many of the pipes being replaced or upgraded were put in during the 1950s and 1960s.

Ameren said the the new rate proposal takes into account money the utility is saving because of the federal tax cut enacted in December.

Customers are also expected to benefit from the low cost of natural gas supply, Ameren said. Natural gas supply costs have dropped from about 58-cents per therm in 2014 to about 42-cents per therm in 2018 — a decrease of nearly 30 percent.

“We’re pleased to make these system enhancements at a time when the overall cost picture is decreasing,” Mark said.

Ameren previously announced that electricity rates are expected to decrease by $2.50 to $3 a month for typical residential customers as a result of the federal tax cut, which included a cut to corporate income taxes.

Rebates coming?

Meanwhile, Ameren Illinois plans to return about $41 million to electricity customers as its energy efficiency rider on bills has been terminated, according to a news release.

The rider was put in place to allow Ameren to recover all reasonable and prudently incurred costs, fees and charges for putting in energy efficiency measures.

Love said the customer refund, which is expected to be about $13 for the residential customer who uses 10,000 kwh of electricity a year, still needs to be approved by the ICC.

“There are a number of things going to save customers money,” Love said.

The rebates are expected to be given to customers in February, Ameren said.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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