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.” 

Christy Schultz, We Energies
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.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

A family holiday tradition like no other, the 2019 We Energies Cookie Book is here

Forget the store decoration displays, peppermint mochas or ugly sweaters. The true start to the holiday season is the arrival of the We Energies Cookie Book. This year’s cookie book, which highlights grandma and her amazing recipes, is available starting Nov. 5.

Nearly 500 recipes from grandmas were submitted, whittled down, baked and tasted. This year’s book features 38 tried-and-true, grandma-approved recipes.

One of those recipes comes from Leslie Wesner of Oak Creek. She wanted to pay tribute to her late mother by sharing her favorite recipe, Grandma Sharon’s Ranger Cookies.

“This was my mother’s favorite recipe, which she would make for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved the Cookie Books, and I thought sharing this recipe would be a great tribute to her,” said Wesner. 



Check out this year's book at we-energies.com.

Our website also has more information about our distribution events, including our Nov. 9 signature events at Miller Park in Milwaukee and Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton.

“It’s our great pleasure to share this year’s Cookie Book with you and continue the tradition that spans generations – bringing us all just a little closer together at the holidays,” said Tom Metcalfe, president – We Energies.

This is the 91st anniversary of the first We Energies Cookie Book. The first Cookie Book was published in 1928 to promote the use of electric appliances for baking. There have been more than 50 editions of the Cookie Book throughout the years.



Wednesday, October 23, 2019

We Energies teams up with law enforcement to stop scams

No more! That’s it! We don’t want anyone else to fall victim to a utility scam— so we’re partnering with police to share an important message: Stop scams now.

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, law enforcement and others across Wisconsin are being asked to share a simple but important message on social media about the dangers of utility scams.




Over the years, our customers have lost tens of thousands of dollars to con artists. We want to make sure everyone knows the warning signs so no one else falls victim.

If you think a scammer is targeting you, hang up and call us right away at 800-242-9137. If you experience a loss through any scam, report the crime to local law enforcement.

Impersonating a utility worker in Wisconsin is a felony punishable with a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or a prison term of 3 1/2 years.

Phone scam warning signs

A criminal may:

  • Pretend to be from We Energies. They may even manipulate caller ID to display We Energies or use a recorded message that appears to be from the company.
  • Threaten to turn off your energy right away.
  • Demand immediate payment — often by prepaid debit card or unusual payment method like Bitcoin. We will never do that.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Lower heating bills expected this winter for our customers

As the temperatures drop and furnaces kick on across Wisconsin this weekend, our customers are hearing some good news: Their heating bills are expected to be lower this winter. Our winter heating forecast shows the average customer will pay nearly 11% less this winter than last year.

Our winter heating forecast is based on a 20-year average of winter weather and assumes the price of natural gas remains where it is today on the spot market. If both of those factors hold true, we expect the average customer will save $58 this winter compared to last year.

Energy savings

This first blast of cold air is also a good reminder than you can take steps to save even more on your energy bill.

  • Turn your thermostat back 7-10 degrees when you’re asleep or away.
  • Seal gaps around windows, doors and siding to keep warm air in. 
  • Schedule a furnace tune-up for safety and efficiency, saving money in the long run.

Budget Billing

If you want to manage your energy costs by spreading out charges more evenly over 12 months, you may want to consider our Budget Billing program.

Energy assistance

Also, qualified customers can apply for energy assistance for the upcoming heating season. The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program provides qualified residents with a one-time grant to help pay energy bills. More than 200,000 Wisconsin families receive assistance each year.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Need help paying your energy bill? Energy assistance now available

We want to make sure all customers are able to pay their bills and stay warm this winter. Starting Oct.1, our customers can apply for energy assistance for the upcoming heating season.

The Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) provides qualified residents with a one-time grant to help pay energy bills. More than 200,000 Wisconsin families receive assistance each year.



To see if you are eligible and to apply for energy assistance, visit the WHEAP website at homeenergyplus.wi.gov or call 866-432-8947. Milwaukee County residents should visit keepwarmmke.org or call 414-270-4653.

The amount of energy assistance you may receive depends on a number of factors, including household size, income and energy costs. You do not have to be behind on your bill to qualify. If you have eligibility questions, call WHEAP at 866-432-8947.

If you have questions about your energy bill or payment options, visit our payment assistance page.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Heroes among us — our crews save men trapped by trees after recent storms

We Energies employee Mike Mathu was working in Royalton, a small town in Waupaca County, in late July when he heard a cry for help. A man nearby was partially trapped under a tree.

“The tree seemed to be thousands of pounds and couldn’t be lifted off,” said Mathu.

Mathu and his colleagues, Bob Suttner, Keith Reinert and Jeremy Peterson, were restoring power after tornados and high winds ripped down power poles and knocked trees and branches into homes and power lines. When the men heard someone was in trouble, they grabbed their chainsaws and rushed to help.

“What seemed like forever was probably only five minutes,” Mathu remembered.



Through teamwork, the crew cut the tree and lifted it off the trapped man.

When asked why they jumped into action, the men downplayed their heroics, saying that they did what anyone would do in that situation.

‘I knew he was in trouble’

Brian Hunter, an employee for the company, ran across a similar scene while he was working on a dead-end road in Pearson, a small town in Langlade County. Like the crew in the Fox Valley, Hunter was helping to restore power after the July storm when he switched from utility worker to life saver.

As Hunter worked on damaged equipment, he saw a man get pinned by a tree while using a tractor to remove it.

“I knew he was in trouble,” said Hunter.

He was indeed in trouble; the tree was across the man’s throat. Hunter jumped on the tractor and put it in reverse, hoping to relieve pressure on the man’s neck. He then grabbed his saw and cut the tree off the tractor, eventually freeing the man.

Hunter said the man thanked him for saving his life.

“I’m not sure what would have happened if I wasn’t nearby. I was just glad I could help him,” Hunter said.



Crews help across Wisconsin

Nearly 1,000 workers from We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service and utility crews around the Midwest teamed up to rebuild circuits and remove debris from equipment that was destroyed by hurricane-force winds and intense lightning after the July storms. They replaced or repaired over 700 utility poles, nearly 500 transformers and 80 miles of wire.

This small army worked together throughout Wisconsin’s most devastated areas to restore power to over 270,000 We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service customers.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Huge solar energy project planned

Along with Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), we have announced a new partnership to acquire the remaining 150 megawatts (MW) of the Badger Hollow Solar Farm. We filed a joint application today with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. We will own 100 MW, and MGE will own 50 MW.

This is our first single site solar project in company history, it joins the growing list of renewable projects the company is pursuing as it looks to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by approximately 80% by 2050.

According to experts, the 100 MW generated on site is enough electricity to power more than 20,000 homes.



“This is another significant step in our transition to a clean energy future,” said Kevin Fletcher, president and CEO – WEC Energy Group, the parent corporation of We Energies. “Along with the environmental benefits of solar energy, this purchase will lower costs to customers over the life of the project.”

“This addition of cost-effective solar energy will help MGE reach our goal of net-zero carbon electricity by the year 2050 while also helping us to manage long-term costs to our customers,” said Jeff Keebler, MGE chairman, president and CEO. “This is yet another step in our active transition toward greater use of cleaner energy sources to serve our community.”

If regulators approve this acquisition, this phase of the Badger Hollow Solar Farm would begin generating electricity in 2021.

Badger Hollow Solar Farm
Badger Hollow is a 300 MW solar project located in southwestern Wisconsin, in Iowa County. The project is being developed by Chicago-based Invenergy, North America's largest privately held renewable energy company.

In May, MGE and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, received regulatory approval to own a combined total of 150 MW at Badger Hollow. MGE will own 50 MW, and WPS will own 100 MW of this first phase of the project. Commercial operation of this phase is expected by the end of 2020.