Ameren Illinois crews broke ground last week on a first-of-its-kind project to convert residents in the village of Grantfork from propane fuel to natural gas.
Construction began on June 1 of approximately three miles of gas distribution main that will extend from Ameren Illinois’ existing gas line along Illinois Route 160 to Grantfork, as well as construction of additional gas mains and services that will run throughout the village.
Before the Village Board gave the green light to the project, the board had asked property owners to sign an agreement saying they would tap-on. The board asked for the commitments because the village must pay the up-front cost for extending the gas line. The village will then be reimbursed by Ameren for each person who taps on. A total of 137 new customers were needed for the village to break even between the cost and reimbursement money.
About 122 customers signed up. However, the Village Board unanimously approved the project in April, despite not reaching the number of commitments it wanted.
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“Having grown up in the area and living in Grantfork for the past 14 years, I have seen the challenges that many of us face with price volatility and uneven supply that come from being served by an alternate fuel source,” said Grantfork Village President Steven Brendel. “Expansion of natural gas service to the community is going to open doors for additional growth and development in the village. I have heard from several residents who predict they will save more than $1,000 on fuel costs each year by converting.”
Due to the abundance of natural gas supply, coupled with relatively stable demand, Ameren Illinois natural gas customers have seen fuel costs drop to their lowest levels since 2002, according to the company.
“Many alternate fuel customers, particularly propane users, were feeling the pinch of high heating bills and low propane supplies following extreme weather in the winter of 2013-14,” said Richard J. Mark, president of Ameren Illinois. “That presented an opportunity for us to take a fresh look at our practices and make modifications that would help relieve the pressure felt by these customers. We’re excited to be able to bring affordable natural gas services to the community of Grantfork.”
The work in Grantfork was made possible through revised standards and qualifications for the company to expand its service area. The project takes advantage of a revised main extension tariff developed by the company and approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in December 2014 that makes it more affordable for propane and other fuel source customers to gain access to natural gas service.
Key changes include a free main extension allowance, which increased the allowed footage for a main extension for qualifying customers from 200 feet to 400 feet. Customers are responsible for the cost of converting their appliances and for any additional service pipe or gas main.
Another new provision allows multiple residential or non-residential customers to join together under a “customer extension group” to reduce the upfront costs to pay for a main extension. This allows the group to share equally in initial costs and any refunds. Previously, an extension agreement allowed for only one responsible party.
“Ameren Illinois is continuously expanding and upgrading our energy delivery system to meet the needs of growing communities,” Mark said. “With this project, we will be able to provide customers in Grantfork with safe, reliable and affordable energy well into the future.”
In addition to cost savings, advocates extending the gas line said new customers will also have other befits, such as never having to worry about running low on fuel, scheduling tank refills or maintaining storage tanks.
For more information on signing up for natural gas service in Grantfork, residents can call Village Hall at 675-3400, ext. 2. Leave a message and someone will get back with you.