Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Students explore new heights with careers in energy

Line mechanics with various levels of experience – from a 15-year We Energies veteran to individuals in their first few months of training – gathered at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s (MATC) Mequon campus on Tuesday morning to inspire high school students to learn their trade.

Nick Trudell, a line mechanic with We Energies, is halfway through his four-year apprenticeship. He got his start at MATC and calls his experience there “a good base to grow on.”

Trudell’s dedication to inspiring the next generation of line mechanics speaks to the program’s success. “The training prepares you for different situations,” he said. “Safety is always first, and someone’s always watching.” Trudell recognizes both the risks and the rewards of the work. He recommends the job for anyone who likes to work outside, is determined and understands the importance of safe work habits.

And safety was the top priority as Trudell gave high school students a hands-on experience at MATC. He helped them put on safety harnesses before taking them 65 feet in the air in a bucket truck.

Nearby, current MATC students practiced climbing utility poles. They gave the high school students a quick lesson and let them try it for themselves. The general consensus was that climbing utility poles is a lot harder than it looks, even with proper gear.

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Raymond Allen visited MATC for Careers in Energy Week. He read a proclamation from Governor Scott Walker at a brief ceremony on campus. Trudell also spoke during the ceremony, highlighting his positive experience at both MATC and We Energies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cast a line at Oak Creek Power Plant's fishing pier

Open for just another month, the Oak Creek Power Plant fishing pier extends into Lake Michigan to provide anglers a place to cast their lines. The pier is open daylight hours through Nov. 15 – weather permitting – and will reopen in the spring on March 15, or once it’s clear of snow and ice.

While on private We Energies property, the pier is open to the public for fishing and provides picnic tables, trash bins and access to a nearby public beach. Swimming, boat launching and fires are not allowed, but the beach welcomes walkers and dogs.

Lake Michigan has been fruitful for past visitors to the pier. “Hit the pier for a few hours today. And the one thing I can say is ‘should have brought more bait,’” wrote fishcrazy53220 on Lake-Link, an online forum for fishing enthusiasts to share stories and tips. “All fish still swimming,” he added.

Al Kunda, maintenance planner – We Energies at the Oak Creek plant, uses Lake-Link’s Oak Creek Power Plant pier forum to update fishing enthusiasts on the pier’s status and closures. He noted the pier is subject to closures “at any time due to poor weather conditions, early snowfalls in fall, late snowfalls in spring and extreme high surf due to strong easterly winds,” making Lake-Link a good resource to check before taking up your tackle.

The Oak Creek Power Plant pier is a good spot to catch coho and chinook salmon, and brown, rainbow and lake trout, among other types of fish. The fish are attracted to the change in water current and the slightly elevated temperature of the water discharging from the power plant. On a clear day, fish can be seen swimming in the plant’s discharge channel.

Although we can’t promise a good catch, we can provide a scenic space to try your luck.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Careers in Energy Week focuses on job opportunities

This is Careers in Energy Week, a week focused on raising awareness about energy careers available in Wisconsin. 

Technical colleges throughout Wisconsin are providing information and hosting events to promote the many employment opportunities in the energy industry. Companies like ours are working with academic institutions to make sure qualified staffing is available for the many craft, engineering and technical positions needed now and in the future.

According to the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium, Wisconsin's energy, power and control sectors employ more than 100,000 people and generate $38 billion in annual sales. Salaries for Wisconsin technical college energy graduates top the colleges’ self-reported earnings with median annual incomes for graduates in gas utility construction and service at $65,579, followed by $59,504 for utilities engineering technology graduates.

If you or someone you know is interested in working in an industry that provides safe and reliable energy for customers throughout the state, check out the following resources for more information:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Energy assistance now available

Customers now can apply for energy assistance for the upcoming heating season.

Applying for energy assistance has never been easier. Visit the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) website at or call 866-432-8947.

Milwaukee County residents can apply for assistance in person at Community Advocates or United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS). Visit or call 414-270-4653 for more information.

More families may qualify for aid this year due to changes in income eligibility. For example, an individual who earns $26,174 per year or less may qualify, and families of four that earn up to $50,336 per year also may qualify.

WHEAP provides qualified residents with a one-time grant to help pay energy bills. Qualification is based on income levels, not on whether someone is behind on paying their energy bills.

Applicants must provide:
  •  Photo ID for applicant, including name and address
  •  Proof of income for all household members for previous three months
  •  Social Security numbers for everyone in the household
  •  Current energy bill or account number
  •  Phone number of landlord and rent certificate or statement (if applicant is a renter and heat is included in rent or a separate payment is made to the landlord)
WHEAP provides assistance to more than 200,000 Wisconsin families annually.

Customers with questions about their energy bills or payment options should call our payment assistance line at 800-842-4565.

Friday, September 30, 2016

2016 We Energies Cookie Book one step closer to completion

2016 We Energies Cookie Books on the presses.
The 2016 edition of the We Energies Cookie Book has hit another milestone – printing! While the pages can be printed in about 24 hours, it takes approximately two weeks in the bindery for the books to be bound, boxed and ready for distribution.

This year’s book, the Wisconsin Heritage edition, features 38 recipes from special contributors throughout the state – names you may recognize like former Olympian Bonnie Blair, comedian John McGivern and gardening guru Melinda Myers, sharing ideas for cookies that will become family favorites for generations to come.

We’ll be distributing Cookie Books at signature events in Milwaukee and Appleton on Nov. 5. Books also will be available at 25 other distribution events throughout our service area in November. You can find the schedule and archive of past Cookie Books online.

First hydroelectric plant was built in Appleton in 1882

Renewable energy has a long history at We Energies. On Sept. 30, 1882, the first hydroelectric plant opened in Appleton, Wisconsin. The plant was conceptualized by H.J. Rogers, president of the Appleton Paper and Pulp Co. and the Appleton Gas Light Co. (later Appleton Edison Light Co.) -- one of our many predecessors.  
Vulcan Street Plant
Rogers' company built the Vulcan Street plant on the Fox River, which powered the plant's water wheel and provided enough power to generate 12.5 kilowatts that lit 180 lights, powered Rogers' riverside paper mill and lit his home perched on a bluff overlooking the mill. 
Although his spacious home was a Victorian showplace, the hydro plant was little more than a shed. A replica of the plant can be found today on South Oneida Street. 
Back in the day of Appleton's first hydro plant, electric bills actually were "light" bills and calculated based on the number of electric lamps in a home or business. The cost was $1.20 a month per lamp -- about $26 in today's dollars. Quite a luxury at the time.
Today, you can light a 10-watt LED bulb for 5 hours a day at a cost of just 20 cents a month.

Friday, September 23, 2016

‘A day so rich in respect, dignity and camaraderie’: What it’s like to be an Honor Flight guardian

Kevin Harrison, electric distribution controller – electric operations at We Energies, volunteered to be a guardian during the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight on Sept. 17. A retired member of U.S. Special Operations Forces himself, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan as a senior medic from 2005 to 2010, he wrote this summary of the experiences throughout the Honor Flight trip.

Robert Bob Schaefer and Kevin Harrison.
From the moment of our departure, escorted by dual P-40 Warhawk 1940-era airplanes, to the parade through General Mitchell Airport upon our return, the 35th Stars and Stripes Honor Flight was chock-full of thoughtful, well-orchestrated and moving activities. The responsibility of serving as guardian for Robert “Bob” Schaefer, an 85-year-old Korean War Army medic, was not a burden, but an honor. Though he never expressed to me the impact of the journey that day, it was apparent on several occasions that he was awed by the experience.

The monuments Bob most wanted to see were the Korean War Veterans Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, but on this day we saw far more than that. Our stops also included the World War II Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial and the United States Air Force Memorial as we coasted through Washington, D.C., on buses escorted by local police. As we toured all of the memorials, the amount of reverence for these veterans was palpable.

The Changing of the Guard ritual performed by 3rd Infantry Regiment soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was especially impressive in its meticulously coordinated movements. The absolute silence made every movement stand out and added to the chilling effect of the ceremony itself. 

The 88 veterans who participated in the Stars and Stripes 
Honor Flight on Sept. 17 in front of the Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt Memorial. 
Every aspect of the journey was well-considered by the organizers, but their great accomplishment was the reception upon returning to Milwaukee. The airport terminal was packed with people who had come to show support for those who had given so much for their nation. It was overwhelmingly powerful for me as much as it was for Bob.

While I was driving Bob home at the end of the day, he was stunned by how many people had shown up to pay homage to the veterans. “How did they get so many people to show up?” he asked, and I replied, “They just told people that there was an opportunity to thank veterans, and all of these people showed up. That is how much your service still means to us.”

“Well, it was almost too much,” he said.

The journey was especially profound for me, as a veteran myself, looking at Bob make fast friends with the other veterans – the stories shared, the jokes told and, on occasion, the tears shed. As I stood in front of the collected group while they were posing for a group picture, I reflected for a moment on the spirit of service still alive today, and hoped that all veterans could someday be rewarded with a day so rich in respect, dignity and camaraderie.

De oppresso liber,*

Kevin Harrison

* De oppresso liber, often translated as “to free from oppression,” is the motto of the United States Army Special Forces.