Tariff revisions recently approved by state regulators are allowing Ameren Illinois to expand natural gas service to new customers that have been relying on propane, the utility said. Crews broke ground this month on a project to bring gas service to the Village of Grantfork, IL.

The project takes advantage of a revised main extension tariff developed by the company and approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in December. The changes make it more affordable for propane and other fuel source customers to gain access to natural gas service, Ameren said.

Key changes include a free main extension allowance that increases 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. Additionally, a 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.

"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 over $1,000 on fuel costs each year by converting," said Village President Steven Brendel.

Construction began June 1 on three miles of gas distribution mainline, as well as additional gas lines and services that will run throughout the village. About 122 customers in the Madison County community have signed up for conversion to gas far, the utility said.

"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 2013-2014 [see Daily GPIFeb. 11, 2014]," said Ameren Illinois President Richard J. Mark. "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."