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US utility Ameren Illinois is partnering with Google to provide residential customers with access to a Google Nest smart thermostat at a drastically reduced price and in some instances free of charge.

The partnership follows Ameren illinois launching its COVID-19 Economic Hardship Recovery Programme in June.

The programme provides customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills with flexible payment options and direct bill payment assistance.

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By partnering with Google, the company is taking it a step further in helping customers reduce their overall energy consumption and lower future energy bills.

The offer is available on the Ameren Illinois Marketplace.

According to Google, Nest Thermostat E users save an average of up to 15% on cooling costs and up to 12% on heating costs, depending on usage. Based on typical energy usage, this translates to an estimated average savings of $131 – $145 each year.

In addition to saving money, smart thermostats are a great tool for customers to better manage energy usage and costs. The devices enable customers to adjust settings on the go via smartphone apps. Additionally, many smart thermostat models can sense when the homeowner and/or residents are away from home and automatically modify the temperature, further reducing energy usage.

Theresa Shaw, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and financial services for Ameren Illinois, said: “At a time when many families are being affected by job loss, furlough or other financial hardship, we want our customers to know we are doing everything we can to help them navigate this challenging time.

“Smart technologies, like smart thermostats, can help customers save money, and through our partnership with Google and other leading manufacturers, we are making these devices accessible and affordable for everyone.”