January heating bills will soar 40 percent or more above last January’s levels, despite a recent plunge in the wholesale cost of natural gas.
The average AmerenIP customer, for example, will pay $252 next month compared to $174 in January 2005, an increase of $78 or 44 percent, said spokesman Leigh Morris. On average, AmerenCILCO customers likely will pay $69.80 more, and AmerenCIPS customers will pay about $30 more.
“We know this isn’t good for anybody. The best thing people can do is conserve,” Morris said Thursday. “For every degree you turn down the thermostat, you can save 2 to 3 percent. We’re not talking about a small impact.”
At Nicor, the cost per therm of natural gas n the amount paid by the customer n actually dropped 4 cents from December to $1.09 in January, said spokeswoman Carmen Morales. But in January 2005, customers paid 72 cents per therm. The company declined to provide information on the average household therm useage.
Still, heating costs could be worse and likely will be.
On Tuesday, natural gas futures plummeted 10 percent, to their lowest level since September. In the last week, mild weather and mild forecasts shaved 23 percent off natural gas prices at the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Still, no one predicted 40-degree weather in December, and the Energy Information Administration in Washington D.C. expects prices to rise as the thermometer drops.
“Given the decline in production in the Gulf of Mexico and imports are constrained, (natural gas) supply is very tight,” said EIA Analyst Tancred Lidderdale. “When it got cold in early December, prices shot up. When it got warmer, they dropped. That type of volatility we can expect to continue.
“If we sustained cold weather in January and February, that will really put pressure on supplies,” he added. “If it gets cold again, expect the prices to go up.”
AmerenIP serves the Bloomington-Normal area, while AmerenCILCO serves Logan and Tazewell counties and the communities of Stanford, McLean and Heyworth in McLean County. AmerenCIPS serves Ford and Iroquois counties and parts of eastern McLean, southern Livingston and northern Champaign counties.
NicorGas serves Livingston and Ford counties and most of McLean and LaSalle counties. Nicor also serves Farmer City, El Paso, Deer Creek, Goodfield, Mackinaw, Benson, Congerville, Kappa, Minonk and Secor.