Friday, July 18, 2014

PSCW approves construction of West Central lateral

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) today approved our plans to build an 85-mile natural gas lateral from Eau Claire to Tomah at a project cost of just over $179 million. Construction is expected to be completed by late 2015.

We filed plans with the PSCW in March 2013.

The project is designed to address growing demand and to bolster the reliability of our natural gas delivery in western Wisconsin. Ten communities along the proposed route have passed resolutions authorizing us to provide natural gas service within their borders.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Restoration wrap up, answers to questions

Our crews, contractors and support personnel have worked safely and without incident to restore electric service to more than 125,000 customers who lost power when intense storms raked southeastern Wisconsin on Monday evening.

In terms of customers left without electric service, this is the fourth-worst storm in our history and worst since 2005. The main culprit was high winds that snapped branches and uprooted trees, which then brought down poles and power lines, causing extensive damage to our electrical distribution system and leaving a tangled, dangerous mess – particularly in Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.

Thanks to all the customers who remained patient throughout the outage and to our contractor personnel and crews from MGE, Wisconsin Public Service and Xcel Energy for helping us during the restoration.

Answers to some frequently asked questions:

Why couldn’t I get through to report my outage?
We experienced some technical issues with our automated phone system on Monday night that may have been due to the extraordinarily high volume of calls that flooded our system shortly after the storm hit. As a result, many customers were unable to report their outages. The issue was resolved later that evening.

How do you prioritize repair work?
Critical or emergency services are restored first. Then we work to repair situations that will restore power to the greatest number of people in the least amount of time. We work down that list until we reach the more isolated or individual issues. The objective is to restore as many people as possible as soon and as safely as possible. This process inconveniences the greatest number of customers for the least amount of time, but we understand the frustration of being one the customers out the longest.

Why did my estimated time of restoration keep changing?
We make estimates because we want customers to know the approximate time they can expect to have their power restored. The estimate is based on our experience and our understanding of the situation. Once crews arrive at the scene, an estimate may change because of changing priorities or conditions. For instance, a crew may provide an estimate after assessing a situation but may find that repairs are more extensive than anticipated, so they adjust the estimate accordingly. In many instances, they are able to complete work faster than estimated, but sometimes work takes longer than expected.

Why did I not see a crew after being told a crew had been dispatched?
Crews are dispatched to identify, isolate and correct or repair issues on our electric distribution system. The situation that caused you to lose power may have originated a long way from your home. If a crew was dispatched to restore your power, you can be assured they were working on it, even if you could not see them.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

More than 120,000 customers restored so far

Most outages have been caused by tree damage.
Crews have restored service to more than 120,000 customers since powerful storms rocked southeastern Wisconsin since Monday evening. The number of customers that were impacted by the storm was more than 125,000.

As of early this afternoon, about 4,000 customers are without power, mostly in Waukesha County. We expect to have all or nearly all of those customers restored by later this evening.

You can call 800-662-4797 to get updates and estimates for restoration on specific outages. When you call, we may indicate that a crew is assigned, which means a crew is scheduled to fix the problem but is not yet on the scene and may take a while before it arrives. In some cases, we indicate that a crew has arrived, which means they are making repairs, which may take hours, depending on the extent of repair needed.

In addition to our crews from southeastern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley, we have help from contractor personnel and crews from MGE, Wisconsin Public Service and Xcel Energy. A total of approximately 500 workers are in the field working on the restoration effort.

This is the worst storm to impact our electric distribution system in almost a decade, with widespread damage to poles and wires, much of it caused by trees and branches toppled or snapped by high winds. Based on current information, this storm caused the fourth-most outages of any storm in our history.

We appreciate the patience and understanding of all of our customers who lost their service and especially those who remain without power.

Crews are replacing hundreds of wires and poles.

When we get numerous outages at the same time as in this storm recovery effort, we prioritize our response. First, we address situations that are life-threatening or hazardous, such as a power line on a street. After these situations are addressed, we make equipment repairs that are causing outages to the greatest number of customers. First come transmission lines, then substations, then main distribution lines, then secondary lines to neighborhoods and finally service lines to individual homes and businesses.

Visit our website for our Outage Map and other outage and safety information

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mequon Nature Preserve recognizes Klappa, company with Stewardship Award

The Mequon Nature Preserve on June 17 recognized Chairman, President and CEO Gale Klappa and We Energies with its first-ever Stewardship Award. Klappa was honored for his leadership in meeting the region’s energy demands, while protecting natural resources and making the Milwaukee area a healthier place to live.

The company received the honor for reducing emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate matter by 80 percent, while increasing power generation by 50 percent; using renewable energy sources (wind, water and biomass) in its fuel portfolio; and supporting environmental organizations throughout the service area.

“We Energies’ grants fund capital projects and operations that enable local organizations to carry out their missions to preserve our natural environment and educate children,” said Steve Tews, a Mequon Nature Preserve board member. “Because of We Energies’ successful efforts to demonstrate how it can link the company’s economic success, its service to its customers with stewardship of our natural resources, Mequon Nature Preserve awards its 2014 Stewardship Award to We Energies.”

“People don’t often think of utilities as being friends of the environment,” said Klappa. “But we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our natural resources. And we’re having an impact — just a few weeks ago, the EPA stated that the air in Wisconsin is the cleanest it’s been in 30 years.”

The We Energies Foundation has supported Mequon Nature Preserve since 2002, contributing $128,000 to help fund start-up costs and renewable projects. In addition, we helped fund a wind turbine and solar panels for the preserve through a Power the Future program.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Restoring service after your power goes out

Nobody wants to be without electric power, but power can go out at any time for a number of reasons.

If your power goes out, call 800-662-4797 to report it. Calls help pinpoint outages. Also, if you see a wire down or something unusual such as a flash, report that, too.

Outage causes
Sometimes, we interrupt service for maintenance or upgrades. In such instances, we notify you in advance of a planned outage, using a letter, phone call, knock on the door or door hanger if no one answers our knock.

Most often, though, outages are caused by severe weather, faulty equipment, fallen trees and branches, animal contact, accidents and other incidents.

Storm preparation and response
If we know storms are coming, we try to anticipate where they may strike and mobilize our repair crews to respond quickly. When damage is widespread, we bring in additional crews from our other areas that may not be affected by the storms. Sometimes, storms may affect our entire service area. In such situations, we have contractors to assist. They supplement our workforce day to day as well as during storms. We also have mutual assistance agreements with neighboring utilities.

Crews work around the clock until service is restored to all customers; however, for safety reasons, crews only work as many as 16 hours in a 24-hour period. After a required 8-hour break for sleep, crews continue their work, if needed. Typically, we use rotations so some crews always are working while others are resting.

Crews often are hampered by difficult conditions. Roadways may be compromised by flooding, ice, snow or fallen trees and other debris, making it difficult or impossible to get to certain sites where repair work is needed. Working in severe cold, wind as well as snow and rain also can slow things down.

Restoration times
Damaged service mast.
Power outages may be just an instant. Sometimes they last seconds, minutes, hours or even days, depending on the severity of damage and how widespread the damage may be. Outages that last just seconds or minutes often are caused by wildlife, weather or vegetation contacting our electric lines and sometimes by contractors digging into our underground wires. Many times, our system can quickly reset itself. You may experience some blinking clocks, but your power returns with little delay. At other times, damage requires a crew to find and fix the cause of the outage.

If the problem is a pole that is knocked down or broken, a new pole can be set in an hour or two and the wires restrung in two or three hours – if the location is easily accessible. In places with more difficult access, the process can take twice as long. Another factor is how many wires are on a pole. More wires mean more work and more time. Underground wires have problems less frequently, but when problems occur, they are more difficult to locate and take longer to repair.

Sometimes, we cannot restore service because of damage to the service mast at your home or business. An electrician would need to replace or repair that equipment before we can reconnect. If you see a situation similar to the adjacent picture, you should contact an electrician as soon as possible.

Prioritizing response to widespread outages
When we get numerous outages at the same time, we prioritize our response.

First, we address situations that are life-threatening or hazardous, such as a power line on a street. After such situations are addressed, we begin the restoration process by making equipment repairs that are causing outages to the greatest number of customers. First come transmission lines, then substations, then main distribution lines, then secondary lines to neighborhoods and finally service lines to individual homes and businesses.

To minimize outages, we evaluate our system annually, identifying areas that experience the most problems and taking steps to improve service. The solutions may be equipment upgrades, additional tree trimming or other protective measures.

Be prepared
Because an outage can occur at any time, we are always ready to respond. We don’t want you to be without power any more than you do. But outages do occur, and we recommend that you be prepared:

Steps to take before a power outage

When you have an outage, use these tips:

Steps to take during a power outage

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Crews work to restore power following overnight storms

Many power outages are caused by tree damage, which 
needs to be cleared before power lines can be repaired.
As of 3 p.m., our crews have restored service to more than 35,000 customers since storms ripped through our service area overnight.

While a number of customers remain without power throughout southeast Wisconsin, the majority are in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.

Crews are out in force to restore service to customers as quickly and safely as possible. All service areas in southeast Wisconsin have been mobilized. We have 66 troubleshooters and 205 line personnel working. We also moved our contractors to the affected areas to help with restoration.

If you see a downed power line, stay at least 25 feet away and call us at 800-662-4797.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Herman, Aurora and Bullet join We Energies peregrine falcon family

Herman, Aurora and Bullet are the latest falcons to be named and banded at one of our power plants.

Employees from the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, Michigan, brought their families to Saturday’s banding event and submitted names for the birds. They even named the chicks’ mom -- Maya Angelou. She had previously been referred to as *P/*S, her banding identification tag from her birth site in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Banding visitors also had the opportunity to see an adult peregrine up close. Phoenix, one of the first falcons produced at the Presque Isle Power Plant in 2012, came back for a cameo. Phoenix now lives at the Chocolay Raptor Center because she would not be able to survive in the wild; she lost an eye and was found near death before being saved by the center.

Our power plant falcon bandings are drawing to a close with the chicks at our Port Washington Power Plant the final hatchlings yet to be named and banded.