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    Ameren Illinois says they expect prices to stay comparable to last year for the upcoming winter.
    The utility says prices should run from 53 to 55 cents per therm. That's roughly the same average price that Ameren's 800,000 Illinois natural gas customers paid last year, when the company said the average price was 54 cents per therm.
    A cold winter last year drove up usage and depleted natural gas supply stocks across the country. In mid-October, Eastern U.S. supply stocks, which includes Illinois, were about 4 percent below their level at that time last year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
    Ameren says it has 38.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas ready for the winter.
    "We are fully prepared for the winter season and expect stable prices for Ameren Illinois customers," Ameren Illinois Gas Supply Director Ken Dothage said in a statement.
    Illinois utilities are not allowed to profit on the price of natural gas purchased from producers and delivered to consumers. During last winter's cold snap, Ameren Illinois natural gas rates were comparable or below winter prices in recent years, according to Illinois consumer group Citizens Utility Board.
    Prices went up sharply earlier this year as utilities replenished natural gas supplies. In Ameren's Metro East region, gas supply charges increased over the summer but have stabilized to levels comparable to last year in September and October. The price of a therm of natural gas in the Metro East was 59 cents in October, according to consumer group the Citizens Utility Board.