Friday, April 29, 2011

Oak Creek owlets reach 6-week mark

Posted by Bob Zahn

Three owlets that hatched at our Oak Creek Power Plant nest box in March are now more than a month old and growing fast. The three males have been weighed, measured and banded. This is the fourth year in a row that owls have nested at the plant.

You can view hourly snapshots of the owls on our webcam.

Here's one from yesterday:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eggs ready to hatch: we're taking names

We have more than a dozen peregrine falcon eggs about to hatch at five of our power plant nest boxes and need names for them when we band the chicks.

These are the power plants where the nest boxes are located:
  • Port Washington Generating Station
  • Valley Power Plant (Milwaukee)
  • Pleasant Prairie Power Plant
  • Oak Creek Power Plant
  • Presque Isle Power Plant (Michigan)
To submit a name, just click ‘Post a Comment’ at the end of this post. Indicate the plant location and the suggested name(s). You also can submit names on our Twitter or Facebook pages:

After we review all the names submitted, we will choose a few for each location and ask you to vote on the finalists for each location. You have until May 1 to submit your names. We expect the first chicks to hatch around May 3 to 5 at Port Washington and others later in the month.

You can check out our nest box webcams here: Nest box webcams
(Maybe you can watch the name you choose take wing.)

View Fox6 video

Since we began our program in 1997, our nest boxes have produced 146 peregrines. Get more information about our raptor program

Don’t forget to come back to vote, starting May 9.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rate increases make news

Rate increases, even small ones, get a lot of attention. Rate decreases or credits not so much (yes, we have had those from time to time).

On April 6, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that we are planning to file a request for rate increases for 2012 and 2013. While we have made no final decision on the filing, our initial estimates suggest that any proposed increase will be less than 4 percent.

The primary reasons include costs for environmental upgrades at our power plants and investments in renewable energy projects to address federal and state mandates. In reviewing our costs, we work to control costs where we can without jeopardizing reliability or public safety.

Because you get reports such as this one in the Journal Sentinel and then hear about it again when we make a filing with the public service commission, when the PSC has hearings and when we receive a final order, it can seem as if there are increases every few months – when it’s really just one.

No one wants any costs to increase – whether for energy, gasoline or even a cup of coffee. We don’t, and our customers always make it clear that they don’t. So, we work to manage our business efficiently. In fact, we are serving 5 percent more customers over the recent years with 1,000 fewer employees as we better manage our costs. Cost savings are in the best interest of our customers as well as our stockholders. We also work with customers to help them manage their energy use, which helps them control their own costs.

As your energy provider, we have a responsibility we take seriously to invest in the infrastructure that generates and delivers energy to you safely, reliably and at a reasonable cost.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Documentary offers insight into nation's electricity issues

According to the documentary "Beyond the Light Switch," the United States must replace most of its power generation within the next 40 years while meeting demand for electricity that is expected to rise 30 percent. That's a very tall order.

“Beyond the Light Switch” takes you into the inner workings of the electrical power infrastructure that exists today and illustrates how it is rapidly evolving to meet future needs. Produced by WTVS Detroit Public Television, the documentary was funded by a number of utilities and foundations, including the Wisconsin Energy Foundation.

“Beyond the Light Switch” provides a balanced perspective to the critical energy issues surrounding the future of energy in the U.S. The first Milwaukee-area broadcasts of the two-part program are:
April 9 - Channel 10, 2 to 3 p.m. (part I)
April 9 - Channel 10, 3 to 4 p.m. (part II)
April 10 - Channel 36, 3 to 4 p.m. (part I)
April 17 - Channel 36, 3 to 4 p.m. (part II)

Other air dates are available on the program's website, which also has a trailer, videos and more.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We Energies, city of Waukesha receive Urban Forestry Council award

Posted by Bob Zahn

We Energies and the city of Waukesha have received a joint award from the Urban Forestry Council, recognizing the partnership that was formed to address two blocks of trees in the north central section of the city that had grown too large for the urban environment. We worked with the city to develop a plan to remove the trees and replace them with utility-friendly alternatives. We handled the initial trimming to remove the branches that were mingling with the power lines. The city completed the task by removing the rest of the trees, trunks and stumps. This spring, we are helping with the purchase of trees that the city will plant. 

The Urban Forestry Council award was presented during the annual conference of the Wisconsin Arborists Association. Learn more about our forestry work.

Here is how things looked before the project, which removed the trees and stumps. This spring, new trees will be planted that will not interfere with power lines.

Friday, April 1, 2011

How we handle rental property account responsibilities

When you rent, sometimes heat is included and electricity is not. Or maybe you pay for all utilities. Or maybe utilities are included in rent. Responsibility for energy bills in rental properties can be confusing, particularly during times when a property is not occupied or shifts from one tenant to another.

"For residential rental properties that have a meter for each unit, we bill renters directly unless the property owner or manager asks to receive the bills," says John Zaganczyk, our director of customer services. When residential rental properties have a single meter for more than one residential unit, Zaganczyk says the property owner or manager gets the bill.

In situations where a renter vacates a unit, any unpaid balance is transferred to the renter's new account with us -- provided the customer remains in our service area and gets a new account. If the customer does not get a new account, we issue a final bill to the customer. Property owners or managers are not responsible for accounts billed in tenant names.

When units with a dedicated meters are not rented, we attempt to contact the owner or manager to determine responsibility for service. During such times, the owner or manager can choose one of the following options for vacant units:

- The owner accepts responsibility for energy service between tenants.
- We Energies terminates service to unit, provided there is no danger to human health or life, or property damage.
- The owner provides the name of a responsible party, typically a new tenant.

Zaganczyk points out that rental property owners and managers also can set up owner agreements with us in advance to indicate how to handle service for the times between tenant occupancies. The options, similar to those listed above, are available on our website: ... /index.htm

In some instances, a third party may request service. For example, a parent might request service for a son or daughter renting an apartment near a university. If the parent or third party does not already have an account, we may require an application for service via phone, letter or in person.

Anyone with questions about rental unit service and billing should call us at 800-242-9137 to learn more about our terms and conditions.