Peoples Energy warns customers of higher gas prices this winter

CHICAGO, Oct. 15, 2002 — Peoples Energy is advising customers that compared to last year, gas prices are rising. As a result, it is anticipated that customer bills for the winter heating season, which is November 1 through March 31, will be higher than last year.

However, the company wants customers to know that it has taken steps to manage the impact of severe price increases on their winter heating bills.

The average gas bill for a Peoples Gas residential customer is expected to increase 36% for the 5 month period from November 1 through March 31 to $737 from $542 a year ago. North Shore Gas customers are expected to experience a 40% increase in their winter heating bills for the same period to $784 from $560 a year ago.

Bills are estimated to be higher this winter than last year due to anticipated colder weather and higher market prices. The actual gas cost will vary and be determined by market and weather conditions, and reflect what we pay for gas each month. This cost is passed along to customers with no mark up.

“Through our price protection program, Peoples Energy will shield customers from the full impact of significant price spikes in the natural gas market,” said Thomas M. Patrick, chairman, president and CEO of Peoples Energy. “We are also working hard to keep customers informed about natural gas prices so they can prepare now for the winter heating season.”

Under the price protection program, Peoples Energy has already purchased the majority of its normal requirements at a reasonable set price for delivery this winter. The cost of this supply is no longer influenced by market conditions and will help protect customers from significant price spikes during colder winter months. The program cannot provide total protection from market price increases because additional purchases may be necessary depending on how cold the weather will be.

The October gas charge for customers of Peoples Gas is 45.48 cents per therm, which is 22 cents more than October 2001. The gas charge for customers of North Shore Gas is 47.88 cents per therm, which is 24 cents more than October 2001. While these prices are much higher than last year, they are well below the record prices of 62 cents for Peoples Gas and 63 cents for North Shore Gas two years ago.

In another difference from the winter of 2000-2001, customers who want to seek an alternative to utility gas supplies now have an opportunity. In May 2002, the company launched the Choices for You program. The program provides customers the opportunity to select their own natural gas supplier. Customers may call 1-866-556-6014 for information and to enroll.

In anticipation of rising natural gas prices, the company last month launched an intensive outreach campaign to prepare homeowners for winter. The campaign, themed “Don’t Wait,” is designed to encourage all Peoples Energy residential customers to prepare now for the upcoming winter through payment plans, financial assistance and conservation. The campaign includes newspaper and radio advertisements, attendance at a variety of community events across the city, direct mail to customers, and joint activities with various departments of the City of Chicago.

The campaign highlights the programs that Peoples Energy offers to help customers manage their gas bill. Customers should take advantage of the opportunity to enroll in the company’s Budget Payment Plan and Automatic Payment Plan. The budget plan divides the total bill amount across a number of months and the Automatic Payment Plan allows the company to deduct bills automatically from a customer’s checking or savings account. To enroll in either plan, Peoples Gas customers can call 1-866-556-6001 and North Shore Gas customers can call 1-866-556-6004. Customers may also pay their bill by credit card or by direct debit by calling 1-888-256-6445 for a small convenience fee.

For customers who need help managing their gas bills, the company is providing important information regarding financial assistance programs that are available. All Peoples Energy customers are being encouraged to proactively take steps to pay outstanding balances and apply early for all the financial assistance for which they are eligible.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides a one-time grant toward a customer’s heating bill. To apply, Peoples Gas customers should call the Community and Economic Development Association (CEDA) at 1-312-456- 4100. North Shore Gas customers should call Lake County Community Action Project at 1-847-249-4330.

Customers not eligible for LIHEAP may qualify for the Peoples Energy Share the Warmth program. Share the Warmth provides up to $200 per eligible household toward payment of their gas bill. To apply, contact the Salvation Army at 1-773-725-1100.

In addition, the company’s representatives will attend a variety of neighborhood events and will work with community groups, churches, Aldermen and city leaders to take the “Don’t Wait” message directly to customers.

Peoples Energy, a member of the S&P 500, is a diversified energy company comprised of five primary business segments: Gas Distribution, Power Generation, Midstream Services, Retail Energy Services, and Oil and Gas Production. The Gas Distribution business serves about 1 million retail customers in Chicago and northeastern Illinois. Visit the Peoples Energy web site at PeoplesEnergy.com .

Source: Peoples Energy

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