Monday, December 9, 2019

12 tips to keep your house safe and your costs down this holiday season

We’ve made a list and we’ve checked it twice. Here are 12 helpful tips to make sure your holidays are safe and your energy bill won’t turn you into a Grinch.


Tip 1: Keep your baking spirits bright. Don’t open the oven door to peek at your holiday goodies. Opening the door can drop the temperature 25 degrees, adding to cooking time and energy use.

Tip 2: It’s a beaut, Clark! Switch to LED lights. They last longer and use less energy compared to incandescent lights. Just make sure you don’t overload your outlets.

Tip 3: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow — but please remove snow from gas meters. The extra weight can stress or crack meter piping, causing a natural gas leak.

Tip 4: Make it the hap-hap-happiest season of all by saving money when you lower your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees when you are asleep or away. This can save as much as 10% a year on heating costs.

Tip 5: It’s a clinker! Don’t let that blasted furnace leave your holiday story bitter. Clean or replace air filters in your heating system to increase airflow and reduce the equipment’s energy use.

Tip 6: Baby, it's cold outside. Use a space heater safely by keeping wrapped gifts, tissue paper and draperies at least six feet away to reduce a fire risk.

Tip 7: When making the figgy pudding, match the pot or pan size with a similar-sized burner. It not only takes less time to heat but also uses heat more efficiently.

Tip 8
: Consider asking Santa for a carbon monoxide detector if you don’t already have one. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas and can be fatal.

Tip 9: Turn the oven off a few minutes early when roasting chestnuts. As long as the oven door remains closed, enough heat will be stored inside to finish cooking your meal for the last few minutes.

Tip 10: It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to lower your water heater to 120 degrees. It’s an easy way to rack up big savings.

Tip 11: As you deck the halls for the holidays, use weatherstripping and caulk to seal gaps around windows, doors and siding, which will improve your energy efficiency and leave you feeling warm and jolly.

Tip 12: We don’t want a “Blue Christmas,” just a blue flame on your natural gas range. That blue flame means your stovetop is working properly.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Fill up your guests, not your energy bill this holiday season

Cooking a holiday meal can be stressful, not only on the chef, but also on their energy bill. Use these tips to help cook efficiently and save money during the holidays.
Preparation 
  • Match pots and pans to burners. Using a small pot or pan on a bigger burner wastes heat. Matching the pot or pan size with a similar-sized burner not only takes less time to heat but also uses heat more efficiently.
  • Use sturdy cookware. Cookware with warped bottoms can use up to 50% more energy to fully heat.
  • Thaw and chop. Reduce your cooking time and energy use by completely thawing your food before cooking and chopping vegetables into smaller pieces that cook faster.
  • Cook your food, not your house. Time your food preparation so it’s complete when your oven finishes preheating. Heating the oven for longer than needed wastes heat and money. 


Cooking
  • Keep oven door shut. Rather than opening the door, use the oven light. Opening the door can drop the temperature 25 degrees, adding cooking time and energy use.
  • Use small appliances. Crockpots or toaster ovens use energy more efficiently than conventional ovens for smaller dishes or meals.
  • Cool down. Allow leftovers to cool before refrigerating them to reduce the appliance’s work.
  • Unplug. Most small appliances, such as toaster ovens and coffee makers, consume a small amount of energy, even if they’re turned off. When possible, unplug.
Cleanup 
  • Oven and microwave. Food spills and food waste absorb heat, adding to cooking time, so keep the inside clean.
  • Dishwashers. Fully load your dishwasher, because it uses the same amount of energy whether full or not. Avoid rinsing dishes before loading. Most dishwashers can handle crusted food.
  • Washing machines. You’ll clean up the spilled gravy efficiently when you use settings based on laundry load size. Bonus washing tip: Most detergents work well in cold water.
More energy efficiency tips

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Large-scale solar project now powering up customers

For the first time in history, our customers are powering their homes with energy from a local, large-scale solar project. The first panels from the innovative Solar Now project were put into service earlier this month; the energy they are producing is being fed into our energy grid to serve all customers.


The nearly 2,000 solar panels that were put into service are hosted on the roof of New Berlin Eisenhower Middle/High School. 

We Energies and the School District of New Berlin (SDNB) partnered on the project that will produce more than 2 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy for all customers. The panels at Eisenhower are the first to produce energy; solar panels at the other SDNB locations are under construction and are expected to be placed into service by the end of the year.

“Solar Now is an important part of our effort to continue to create a cleaner energy future that is safe, reliable and affordable,” said Kevin Fletcher — president and CEO of WEC Energy Group, parent company of We Energies. “This milestone is the first of many to come as we bring more Solar Now and other solar projects online in the coming months and years.”

“I applaud We Energies for this innovative program and community partnership. I’m proud my district will be home to the first panels and look forward to seeing Solar Now shine in other communities across the state,” said Representative Mike Kuglitsch, chair of the Committee on Energy and Utilities.


While the SDNB project is the first to power up, numerous other Solar Now projects are in the works, including partnerships with the City of Racine, University of Wisconsin Parkside, and Washington County. By the end of 2019, We Energies expects to have more than 5 MW of solar power feeding into the energy grid, enough to power more than 1,000 homes. Once complete the Solar Now program will create 35 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy that will benefit all of our customers.

Solar Now is a pilot program approved by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. We hired SunVest, a Wisconsin-based company, to be the general contractor for these projects.

Solar Now is part of the We Energies and WEC Energy Group plan to create a cleaner energy future. Working with industry partners, environmental groups and state leaders, WEC Energy Group has set a goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Nine years in a row — We Energies again named most reliable utility in the Midwest

For the ninth straight year, we have been named the most reliable utility in the Midwest for keeping the lights on, phones charged and homes warm.

The ReliabilityOne™ Award from PA Consulting is given to utilities that have excelled in delivering the most reliable electric service to their customers. We were honored for Outstanding Reliability Performance in the Midwest.

Through targeted infrastructure investments, dedicated employees and innovative projects like drone surveillance of power lines, we work hard every day to make sure customers have the energy they need, when they need it.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Safe start: Hunters reminded to inspect cabin heating systems prior to gun deer opener

As one of Wisconsin’s signature traditions returns, we urge deer hunters to thoroughly inspect their cabin’s heating system before heading out into the woods.

Inspecting a hunting cabin’s heating system can help avoid a dangerous or even fatal buildup of carbon monoxide. This invisible, odorless gas is created by improper venting or burning of fuel.

Carbon monoxide warning signs 
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • A sudden flu-like illness
  • Dizziness, headaches or sleepiness
  • Cherry-red lips and an unusually pale complexion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A fluttering heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness



Safety tips

To prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide, hunters should install carbon monoxide detectors inside their cabins, or check existing detectors to ensure they are working properly. Heating vents should be checked and cleared of any animal nests or debris.

Additionally, hunters who use a portable electric generator should always operate it outdoors to prevent carbon monoxide from accumulating indoors.

We also caution hunters to be aware of power lines and electric distribution equipment near hunting grounds.

Friday, November 15, 2019

From the classroom to the job site, real-life opportunities for MPS students

We are proud to partner with Milwaukee Public Schools to offer high school students on-the-job work experience as part of an innovative internship program.

WITI-TV spent the day with students who were exploring the program to see if a career with us might be right for them.



This innovative internship program has received statewide recognition.

Monday, November 11, 2019

‘Even if you did not serve together, you’re family’ Military members, veterans are integral part of employee population

From our early years through today, we have built a tradition of honoring those who serve our country.

In our downtown Milwaukee Public Service Building, for example, the plaque dedicated to the 662 employees of company predecessor Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co. who served in World War I is still prominently displayed. More than a century later, we have supported Stars and Stripes Honor Flight and Fisher House Wisconsin through our We Energies Foundation.

The memorial tablet dedicated to the 662
Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co.
employees who served in World War I.
 
One reason the legacy of honoring America’s service members endures is the number of veterans and military reservists among our employee population. Our hiring efforts target the veteran market to recruit those with specialized skills for careers in power generation and distribution, along with other areas vital to the company — but the energy industry in general seem to naturally attract those with military backgrounds as well.

Christy Schultz, computer systems specialist — IT Services, is one of those employees. She joined the company in 1998 (on the Monday after Independence Day, coincidentally) after serving four years in the U.S. Army and graduating from Waukesha County Technical College on the GI Bill.

“I started on the help desk, thinking this was a good way to break into the IT field after graduating and that I would be here three to five years,” Schultz recalls. “Here I am, 21 years later. Over the years, my job has morphed from the help desk, desktop support, telecom and a number of projects in between.”

Today, as a computer systems specialist, Schultz works in telecom, supporting, installing and troubleshooting the phone systems throughout the company.

“There are a number of veterans working in telecom, three alone on my immediate team,” she says. “The military community is an interesting one — a large family with plenty of squabbles and a whole lot of camaraderie. When you run into a veteran at work, it’s almost like running into an extended family member. You have that ‘thing’ in common. Even if you did not serve together, you’re family.” 


Doing something different

Schultz joined that family when she enlisted at age 16. High school graduation was looming, and she was trying to decide what to do.

“I knew I wanted to do something different, something no one else was going to do,” she explains.

A video of people jumping from airplanes piqued her interest. Although her recruiter explained there were not a lot of job opportunities for women in the Army’s airborne operations, Schultz persisted and became a parachute rigger.

She left in June 1990 for basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“The initial shock of basic training can be intimidating and overwhelming. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I made the right decision. But I went in with the mindset that basic training would be intense, like the movie ‘Full Metal Jacket.’ Basic training wasn’t that extreme, but jump school, now that was intense,” she describes, adding that she was there with members of the Army Infantry, Army Rangers, Special Forces, Marine Recon, Navy SEALs and Delta Force.

“All men, and 17-year-old me,” Schultz says. She turned 18 while she was there.

After jump school, she went to Fort Lee, Virginia, to train as a parachute rigger, and then was deployed to the border of Saudi Arabia and Iraq for the Gulf War. “Desert Storm was our graduation present,” jokes Schultz, who was sent in support of the 18th Airborne Corps.

She returned to the U.S. after three months and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, packing personnel and cargo parachutes, rigging heavy drop equipment, and issuing parachutes for airborne operations. During her time in the 82nd, she married and had a son. When her four-year term was up, she opted to return to Wisconsin rather than re-enlist. The deployment window required with her unit was a driving factor. 

Schultz with two members of her unit, gearing up for a 12-mile road march. 
“We would get a call and have to be on base, checked in, within an hour of that call. Sometimes we could be gone for hours; other times for days if not weeks,” she said. “Doing that while single or married is one thing, but with a child it’s different.”

Skills that led to a career

While her degree as a microcomputer specialist and the opportunity for a stable job led her to the We Energies IT department 21 years ago, the experience gleaned from the military has affected Schultz’s role within the company.

“Many traits that you pick up in the military come into play here at work. Teamwork, efficiency and reliability are a few that come to mind. We work together more effectively if we can rely on each other and have a plan,” she says.

Those traits are reasons Schultz — a member of Tanner Paull American Legion Post 120 and of the company’s Military Service Members Association business resource group — sees We Energies focusing on veteran recruitment. “I think it’s great that We Energies encourages veterans to apply. Veterans tend to have a strong work ethic and sense of duty.”