Friday, October 13, 2017

Historical industrial site getting 21st century makeover, paving way for future job growth

If you’re not familiar with the old Solvay Coke & Gas Co. site, the waterfront parcel on Milwaukee’s southeast side was once bustling with activity, and we’d like to see it return to productive use.

We now own the 46-acre parcel of land stretching from the Kinnickinnic River to East Greenfield Avenue. We purchased the property earlier this year because we’re partly responsible for the EPA-required cleanup of the site, which was occupied by a couple of our predecessor companies as well as other companies prior to Solvay’s ownership.

The Solvay site, as it appeared in the 1930's

The Milwaukee Gas Light Co. (later known as Wisconsin Gas) purchased coal gas from Solvay’s operations. The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. (later known as Wisconsin Electric Power Co.) had electric railroad support facilities on another part of the property. Dating back to the late 1880s, the property has hosted a variety of industrial processes – from coke production, to iron production, to hide tanning and more. The above photo of the property shows a very active scene in 1930s.

Some of the debris left at the site
We’ve made substantial progress in cleaning up the site so it can be redeveloped. This site is uniquely positioned to offer many amenities highly sought by industrial companies. The eastern edge abuts the KK River, offering ready shipping access as well as a Great Lakes port. Railroad tracks run along both the east and west edges of the site, offering access to Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific rail lines. Plus, I-94 is just a few blocks away. It’s an infrastructure trifecta: It’s rare for companies to find three different modes for transporting their raw materials and finished products in one place. In addition, high pressure steam from our recently converted gas-fired Valley Power Station is available along East Greenfield Ave. 

Since purchasing the site, we have: 
Demolition of an old stack

  • Installed fencing to secure the property
  • Razed chimneys and old buildings
  • Removed asbestos and lead paint 
  • Removed 100 tons of trash and construction debris 
  • Recycled 30 tons of tires and conveyor belts 
  • Recycled 96 tons of steel
  • Recycled 2500 tons of asphalt
Next steps include soil sampling and an engineering evaluation to outline soil remediation options. The EPA will review these options, seek public comment and then recommend an action plan. Once we receive a final action plan from the EPA, soil and groundwater cleanup can begin. Our goal is get the site ready for redevelopment, possibly in 2019. We look forward to bringing new life to this historic industrial site by attracting businesses that can create family-supporting jobs that will enhance Milwaukee and Wisconsin. 

Demolition of an old building



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

We Energies sponsors China Lights’ return

For the second year in a row, We Energies is sponsoring China Lights at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners.

This year’s event promises to make the gardens brighter than ever with 50 lantern displays across three quarters of a mile of Boerner’s landscape. These vivid and expertly lit displays depict flowers, figures and animals -- real and mythical. Each handmade lantern was constructed on-site by Chinese artisans. Nearly all of the lanterns are different from those shown last year.


The event offers food and drink as well as vendors selling Chinese crafts and gifts. Additionally, each day features an illumination parade, as well as multiple live performances including musicians, spinning tops, juggling and martial arts demonstrations on stages sponsored by our company.


We believe in building stronger communities by supporting initiatives that promote economic health, arts and culture, education and environment. “We Energies is proud to sponsor China Lights in Southeastern Wisconsin because it is an exciting celebration of art and culture that we know all will enjoy,” said John Zaganczyk, vice president – customer services.

China Lights runs through Oct. 22 from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and is closed to the public on Mondays. Potential visitors can learn more about the event, including information on tickets and parking, at chinalights.org.

Friday, October 6, 2017

MPS students get unique chance to pursue line mechanic career

We’ve teamed up with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to develop a first-of-its-kind job training program for students interested in pursuing a career as a line mechanic. The opportunity could open the door for students to work full-time at We Energies upon graduation.

“You are among a select few to get this chance,” veteran troubleshooter Theo Minor told a group of students at Milwaukee’s Alexander Hamilton High School recently. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Initially, the training program is being offered to juniors at Hamilton High School. About 40 students attended an assembly to learn more. Many will follow-up with a field trip to our training center later this month.

Hamilton HS students learn more about new line mechanic work study program.

Those who pursue the program will attend several training sessions throughout the school year. Approximately 8-10 students will then be invited to work at We Energies over the summer. They’ll be assigned to Milwaukee line crews and observe the duties of line mechanics firsthand. 

Students will then continue with training sessions their senior year followed by another season of summer employment. Upon completion, they may be hired as line mechanic apprentices or pursue a different career track at We Energies.

To be considered for the program, students must:
  • Be juniors in 2017/2018 school year
  • Remain on track to graduate in 2019
  • Be punctual and have excellent attendance
  • Actively participate in all program activities
  • Obtain a valid driver’s license by graduation
  • Pass drug/alcohol screenings 

This is the first time we’ve partnered with MPS to offer a program like this. We think it’s a win-win: students will learn valuable skills and potentially find full-time employment after graduation, while our company finds a new way to recruit talented individuals for rewarding careers.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We Energies Foundation sponsors Michigan Street Bublr Bike Station

Frequent visitors to Zeidler Union Square will notice something that might be familiar to them but is brand new to the park – seven Bublr Bikes and a 15-slot docking station. The We Energies Foundation has sponsored the Bublr Bike station in the park on the corner of 4th and West Michigan streets, adjacent to We Energies' downtown Milwaukee offices, where anyone can rent the blue bicycles often seen around town as part of Milwaukee’s bikeshare system. This station is Bublr’s 62nd, which cover the Lakefront to Wauwatosa and UWM to Bayview. Bublr hopes to build more stations in the coming years, including 25 in the next month.

“Sponsoring a Bublr Bike station close to our downtown Milwaukee office supports the We Energies Foundation’s efforts to build strong communities,” said Beth Straka, senior vice president – corporate communications and investor relations, WEC Energy Group, and vice president, We Energies Foundation. “I look forward to using the bikes myself.”


Sally Sheperdson, executive director of Bublr Bikes, echoed Straka’s enthusiasm about the new station. “Bublr Bikes is excited about our newest station in Zeidler Park, made possible through the generosity of the We Energies Foundation. Bublr provides a healthy, inexpensive way to commute to work, zip around town and explore the city. It is a great way to bring the community closer together. And having this station just across the street from Bublr Bikes’ new headquarters in the Grand Avenue Mall building is a bonus!"

More information on Bublr Bikes, including pricing, station locations and details on the mobile app, can be found at bublrbikes.org.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

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 homeenergyplus.wi.gov or call 866-432-8947.

Milwaukee County residents can apply for assistance in person at Community Advocates or United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS). Visit energyassistancemke.org 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 $26,601 per year or less may qualify, and families of four that earn up to $51,155 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 (first-time applicants only), 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.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Public Service Building draws hundreds of visitors for Doors Open Milwaukee

Visitors view the large marble walls
 and chandelier in our lobby.
The public received a rare glimpse inside our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee this past weekend. The event, which drew nearly 800 visitors, was staffed by employee volunteers.

“Everyone was truly impressed. They thanked us immensely for spending our weekend here with them,” said Jennifer Eisner, manager of Customer Service at We Energies and organizer of the event.

Visitors called the building a hidden treasure in Milwaukee. Built in 1902, the Public Service Building (PSB), located at 231 W. Michigan St., was a central station for The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. a predecessor of We Energies. Milwaukee’s original streetcars operated out of the building. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Feedback from visitors was overwhelmingly positive, according to Eisner. “Visitors told us the building was amazing and thanked us for opening our doors.”

Historic Milwaukee Inc. hosted Doors Open Milwaukee, a celebration of Milwaukee’s art, architecture, culture and history, now in its seventh year. More than 150 buildings are open to the public for two days every September to provide behind-the-scenes tours in Milwaukee’s downtown and surrounding suburbs.

Friday, September 22, 2017

See our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee

Public Service Building was built in 1902.
Few buildings are still standing from the early 20th century, and even fewer have the history and grandeur of our Public Service Building (PSB) in downtown Milwaukee. This weekend, you can get a rare glimpse inside our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee.

The PSB was built in 1902 as a central station for The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co., a predecessor of We Energies. Milwaukee’s original streetcars operated out of the building. Trains entered from Second Street, picked up their passengers, and then exited onto Third Street. At one point, the building was the largest interurban railway terminal in the United States.

PSB lobby is neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style.
The PSB was designed in a neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style which was very popular in the early 20th century. The four-story building is an architectural treasure, both outside and within. In the early days of the building, the second floor featured facilities for entertainment including an auditorium, bowling alley, library, billiard room and barber shop. The auditorium still is used today as a corporate meeting space.

As visitors approach the PSB, they sometimes notice the operating clock above the main entrance. Inside, attention is drawn to the marble lobby walls that came from an Italian quarry and include a curious architectural detail: a stained-glass window depicting a swarm of bees buzzing around a hive.

Stain-glass window depicting
a swarm of bees
 buzzing around a hive.
“We have received positive feedback every year since we started participating in Doors Open Milwaukee," said Jennifer Eisner, our coordinator for the event. “We are happy to show this architectural gem to the community, which would not normally have access to it.”

The PSB was remodeled many times over the years to accommodate the needs of its occupants, but in 1996, the company completed a grand effort to restore the building to its original glory while also expanding and modernizing office space. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The PSB will open its doors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24. Visitors are invited to tour the lobby and auditorium, and also can attend a presentation about the building and company history.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Crews return home after restoring power in Georgia

Our crews are home safe and sound after helping restore power to hurricane victims in Georgia. More than 30 workers embarked south last week and wound up in a rural area about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta. They spent two 16-hour days restoring power to customers that had been without electric service for several days following Hurricane Irma.
Crews work to restore power to hurricane victims in Georgia.
“It was an honor to be part of this major restoration effort,” said Area Manager Mike McNeil, who led the group. “The people we met in Georgia were so appreciative of our efforts. We’re happy we could help them in their time of need.”

One of the more memorable encounters was with members of Liberty Baptist Church in Lula, Georgia. Church members served meals to our crew members and prayed for them. They also thanked them publicly on the church’s Facebook page.


Crews were released to return to Wisconsin after host utility Georgia Power concluded restoration efforts. Crews from our sister company, Wisconsin Public Service, were re-routed to Florida after getting released in Georgia. They continue restoration efforts in a rural area west of St. Augustine.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Crews arrive safely in Georgia

After driving about 800 miles, our crews have arrived safely in the metro Atlanta area where they’ll help Georgia Power restore electricity to hurricane victims. Their accommodations are modest, to put it mildly. They’re staying in bunk trailers at Coolray Field, home of the Atlanta Braves’ AAA team, along with hundreds of other utility workers from across the country. 


Crews are expecting to work double shifts several days in a row, restoring power wherever they’re sent. That means 16 hours working with just 8 hours resting. Initially, they’re working in the Gainesville area, about 60 miles outside of Atlanta. The area in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is rural and hilly. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Crews head south to assist in hurricane response

A caravan of nearly 20 We Energies trucks is headed south to assist with power restoration in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Millions of people remain without power in Florida, Georgia and other neighboring states. Full restoration could take weeks.



34 We Energies employees, from as far north as Iron Mountain, MI to southeast Wisconsin, are headed to the Atlanta area where they’ll assist Georgia Power with recovery efforts. Georgia Power still has hundreds of thousands of customers without power. Our crews may be re-routed to other areas after their work in Georgia is complete.

Crews depart from the Racine Service Center on Sept. 13.

The electric power industry is mounting an industry-wide response to restore power in the region. Our employees are part of an army of more than 50,000 workers from across the U.S. and Canada. Just as we would expect to receive assistance after a major storm, we have answered the call for help. We’ve also released 100 contract employees to help in the restoration effort.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Cookie Crumbs: Celebrate Grandparents Day with Grandma Loni’s Butter Cookies


We Energies Cookie Book recipes are perfect for celebrations of all kinds. No matter the occasion, you’ll find a recipe that’s just right.

Nana, Oma, Gramps, Pappy – no matter what name they’re called, grandparents are the best. This Sunday is National Grandparents Day, so why not celebrate with Grandma Loni's Butter Cookies?

This recipe was featured in the 2011 We Energies Cookie Book, which included 37 recipes from We Energies employees. 

Grandma Loni's Butter Cookies 
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon milk (optional)
Colored sugar

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, vanilla and lemon peel. Sift together flour and baking powder; blend into butter mixture. If mixture is dry or crumbly, add milk. Cover container; chill dough for several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Take 1/3 of dough from the refrigerator at a time and place on very lightly floured surface. Roll 1/8-inch thick. Cut with floured cookie cutters of desired shapes. Sprinkle with colored sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheets; bake at 425 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire cooling racks. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes about 6 dozen, depending on size of cookie cutters used.

Need some baking inspiration? Our Cookie Book archive has recipes dating back to the 1930s. Go online and find your new favorite today!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Contest winner makes canine cameo in new ad

The winner of our Safe Digging contest, Charlie, got to enjoy the grand unveiling of his winning ad at Energy Park on Aug. 11. The adorable Goldendoodle, along with his owners, Breanne and Jeff Beyer of Kaukauna, helped celebrate 8-11 day -- a day to raise awareness about calling 811, Diggers Hotline.

Charlie sporting a We Energies hard hat.
We asked customers to submit photos of their dogs digging in the yard and received dozens of entries. Charlie received the most votes from the public. Now, he gets to be ambassador for our Safe Digging campaign and spread an important message: Doggone it! Call 811 before you dig.

Charlie and the Beyers of Kaukauna.
Whether you’re planting a tree or installing a mailbox, call 811 at least three days before starting your project to help ensure that you avoid underground utility lines when you dig. You can put yourself in serious danger by striking an underground electric or natural gas line.

You can see Charlie’s winning ad on display at Energy Park throughout the duration of the Wisconsin State Fair. For his effort, Charlie also earned a basket of goodies, including dog treats and a special 811 frisbee.

Safe digging tips


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Lamb purchased at Governor’s Blue Ribbon Auction supports youth in agriculture

We have been presenting games and demonstrations on energy generation, distribution and safety at Energy Park, our exhibition center at the Wisconsin State Fair since the start of the fair on Aug. 3. We also have hosted cooking and gardening lessons to help visitors enjoy Wisconsin’s agricultural bounty, as well as birds of prey shows with the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

But we’re not just exhibitors at the fair – we’re also guests, appreciating the effort that goes into the achievements on display. We Energies and its sister company Wisconsin Public Service work directly with many Wisconsin farmers to supply agricultural energy services, including the electricity needed for dairy and livestock farms’ lighting and cooling systems.

“We work with customers for on-farm wiring safety, rewiring, energy efficiency and any needs they may have as they look to build another barn, or change some of their electrical system and upgrade it,” said Jason Kollwelter, manager – agriculture services and customer-owned generation, in a recent interview with Lake Effect’s Mitch Teich.

We also show our support for the agricultural community in other ways. On Aug. 9, we participated in the 49th annual Governor’s Blue Ribbon Auction at the fair. The auction celebrates the strength of Wisconsin’s livestock industry and the accomplishments of junior exhibitors planning for a future in agriculture. The We Energies Foundation entered the winning bid for a champion natural colored lamb exhibited by Brady Meudt of Walworth County. We then donated the lamb back to the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction Scholarship Fund.

This year’s auction raised a total of $267,000 for the individual exhibitors, the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation and youth scholarship awards. We’re glad to have contributed, and we hope to see many more of our customers before the fair ends on Sunday night.

Exhibitor Brady Meudt (front) with his champion lamb. In back (left to right): Scott Lauber, director – We Energies Foundation board; Bob Juneau, senior agriculture account manager, WPS; Beth Straka, vice president – We Energies Foundation; Brad Brusveen, senior agriculture account manager, We Energies; Corey Kuchta, supervisor – agriculture services and customer-owned generation, WPS; and Jason Kollwelter, manager – agriculture services and customer-owned generation, We Energies.

Monday, July 31, 2017

And the winner is…

It was a “ruff” competition, but the winner of our Safe Digging contest is: Charlie!

Charlie's winning picture.
Charlie’s picture earned the most votes in our online contest where more than 2,000 votes were cast. 

Charlie, a Goldendoodle, captured the majority – 17 percent. Charlie’s owners, Breanne and Jeff Beyer of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, tell us Charlie is about 5 months old and loves to get into mischief and dig in the yard.

“Jeff is a landscape foreman, so we have a lot of landscaping to tempt him,” Breanne said. 

Jeff’s job also means the family is very familiar with calling 811, making Charlie a “qualified” canine safety ambassador. 

“Jeff is obviously familiar with calling Diggers Hotline before working,” Breanne said. 

Our new canine safety ambassador, Charlie.
Stay tuned for Charlie’s Safe Digging ad, which will be unveiled at Energy Park at the Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 11 (8-11) ‒ a day to raise awareness about dialing 811 three days before you dig.

Charlie will help us spread an important safety message: Doggone it! Call Diggers Hotline (811) before you dig. 

Charlie also will get a basket of doggy treats. Congrats to Charlie and the Beyer family and thanks to all the pet owners who submitted photos in our contest. Our first runner up, BW, also "dug up" a lot of votes. 

Runner-up, BW.
Safe digging tips

Friday, July 21, 2017

Cookie Crumbs: Cheer on Festa Italiana with sesame seed cookies

We Energies Cookie Book recipes are perfect for celebrations of all kinds. No matter the occasion, you’ll find a recipe that’s just right.

July 21 marks the beginning of Festa Italiana. The first ethnic festival launched in Milwaukee and the largest Italian-American event of its kind, Festa Italiana is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. Visitors this weekend will enjoy delicious Italian cuisine, traditional games and dances, music, historical exhibits and more. Italian cooking can help you get into the Festa spirit at any time of year.

With a blend of savory and sweet flavors, these Italian sesame seed cookies are a wonderful complement to a cappuccino. The recipe was submitted to us by Giacomo Fallucca, president and CEO of Palermo’s Pizza, who calls Milwaukee home. Fallucca contributed to our 2016 Cookie Book, the Wisconsin Heritage edition, which featured recipes from many notable names in Wisconsin entertainment, culture, business and industry.

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Italian Sesame Seed Cookie

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon anise extract, divided
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon anise extract; mix well. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture; mix well. Shape small amounts of dough into 1/2-inch logs; cut into 2-inch-long pieces. Place sesame seeds in shallow bowl. In separate shallow bowl, combine milk and 1/8 teaspoon anise extract. Roll pieces in milk mixture, then coat in sesame seeds. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 425 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on wire cooling racks. Makes about 7 dozen.

Need more baking inspiration? Our Cookie Book archive has recipes dating back to the 1930s. Go online and find your new favorite today!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Employees, foundation aid Burlington-area residents

In the wake of last week's flooding in the Burlington, Wisconsin, area, We Energies employees participated in two multi-agency resource center events this week to aid customers affected by the flooding. In addition, the We Energies Foundation made a $10,000 donation to the local American Red Cross chapter to aid in the agency's efforts to provide shelter and other goods and services to those displaced by the flooding.

Last week's flooding caused severe damage to a We Energies substation in Burlington that left numerous customers without power until mobile transformers could be brought in and energized. The substation was repaired earlier this week and returned to normal operation on July 18.

Burlington-area residents had the opportunity to seek information and assistance from Red Cross workers (in vests) and We Energies employees, such as Ron Bormann (far left), Robbin Bankhead and Phyllis Eckles of Customer Service and Operations, at two multi-agency resource center events held earlier this week to address issues residents may be facing in the wake of severe flooding in the region.

Resource centers were established at Burlington High School in Racine County on July 18 and at Riverview Elementary School in Kenosha County on July 19. At the events, employees addressed inquires about having service restored after work was completed, possible bill extensions due to additional expenses customers are facing and assistance in purchasing new appliances. Employees provided 211 information as an additional resource for social service needs and weatherization information for income-qualifying customers.

A We Energies Foundation donation to the local chapter of the American Red Cross contributed to the following goods and services, as reported by the agency: 
  • 2 shelters
  • 3 bulk distribution sites
  • 353 meals served
  • 1,415 snacks served
  • 1,611 cleanup kits distributed
  • 3,336 bulk items distributed (bleach, masks, heavy-duty brooms, etc.)
  • 162 volunteers and staff assisting on operation
  • 29 vehicles deployed, including 13 chapter-owned vehicles and 4 emergency response vehicles
  • 101 cases opened to provide one-on-one support to families
  • 261 people served through casework
  • 14 disaster health contacts
  • 137 disaster mental health contacts
A Red Cross representative thanked We Energies for the foundation gift and provided an update on their efforts:
"I want to thank all of you for the kind donation to support our disaster operation in southeast Wisconsin the past few days. It looks like it will continue this week. We should be able to close one shelter tomorrow and just leave one open. We have delivered thousands of clean up kits and items. Two semi-trailers are in our parking lot as a lot of supplies have arrived for the operation. This will continue this week and our casework will continue for many weeks." 

11 finalists unveiled in 811 contest

We asked for pictures of digging dogs, and you delivered. Our Safe Digging contest fetched dozens of entries. It was “ruff” narrowing down the list of finalists, but nearly a dozen dogs made the cut:



Vote
Now, “paws” to vote for your favorite. The winner will be featured in our Safe Digging campaign, including a grand unveiling at Energy Park at the Wisconsin State Fair.

The winner will help us spread an important safety message: Doggone it! Call 811 before you dig.

Finalists, don’t “fur-get” to tell family and friends to vote by 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 30. The winner will be announced the following day. Good luck and thank you to all who submitted photos.

Safe digging tips

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Burlington substation repairs completed ahead of schedule

We thank our customers in Burlington for their patience during repairs to our substation, and we’re happy to report the station is already back online. Fortunately, our repair work was seamless – we did not have to de-energize our system during repairs, and customers wouldn’t have noticed any changes in their service.

Crews were able to complete very complicated repairs to the substation, which was submerged in more than two feet of flood water last week, in just three days – much sooner than initially anticipated.

Before and after pictures of our substation in Burlington.

While substation repairs were being completed, Burlington customers had electricity served through mobile transformers. Though no longer necessary, the mobile units remain on site until the nearby Fox River recedes further. 

Getting the substation back on line was no small task. We had more than 50 employees dedicated to the effort. They had to replace damaged equipment and perform dozens of switching operations in our distribution network.

Unlike the light switches at your home, the switches at our substation are connected to multiple wires so we can reroute power when necessary. These redundancies are built into our system to minimize the impact of outages.

Crews had to perform more than 30 intricate switching operations to connect customers to the mobile transformers. After repairs, they had to perform all those operations again to reconnect customers to the substation. To minimize stress to our system during this delicate process, some of our larger industrial customers in the area agreed to curtail their electric use temporarily.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Burlington power restoration continues after flood

We continue to work toward a solution that should safely restore power to customers in Burlington and surrounding areas. According to the National Weather Service, multiple rounds of heavy rainfall resulted in flash flooding Wednesday in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties. Burlington experienced widespread flooding.

Floodwaters knocked out power from our electrical substation in Burlington. Initially, 25,000 customers lost power after our substation was knocked out. We re-routed power to get as many customers back in service as possible. We now are working to get power back to the remaining 4,000 customers who are without service.

On Thursday, we brought mobile transformers to the affected area to essentially replace the substation. Installation of these units is a complex process and changes the way power is delivered to customers. When the units are operational, we anticipate restoration to happen in stages. Our goal remains to get power back to all homes and businesses Friday afternoon.

The water has begun to recede from our substation, which takes electricity from high-voltage transmission wires to a lower voltage for customers. When flooded, the substation could not deliver electricity to the wires serving customers. The water in the substation damaged equipment that must be repaired or replaced. We are assessing the damage and working to clean up and repair the substation as quickly and safely as possible.

We continue to advise extreme caution in flooded basements. If your home is flooded, call 800-662-4797 to disconnect power and natural gas service. To be safe, always assume that basement flood water is energized. Walking through a wet or flooded basement can be dangerous. Never walk through a flooded basement until the electricity is disconnected. Even a small amount of water on a basement floor can put you at risk for electrocution. While electricity is needed to run the sump pumps and wet/dry vacuums that help remove water from a basement, the risk of electrical shock is high. Safety experts suggest using a generator to power your sump pump or wet/dry vacuum instead. Generators also come with safety concerns, so learn about generator safety before operating one, and never run extension cords through water.

Our website also has more information on outage safety.

Burlington substation flooded.
Crews are working around the clock in Burlington. 

Mobile transformer arrives in Burlington Thursday.




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

K’s for a Cause supports veterans through the We Energies Foundation

It’s baseball season! This year, We Energies and the Milwaukee Brewers are working together to support local veterans through a program called K’s for a Cause. For every strikeout, or “K,” thrown by Brewers pitchers at Miller Park, the We Energies Foundation contributes $25 to Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative (MHVI).

“We’re so glad to have two great organizations supporting us in We Energies and the Milwaukee Brewers,” said Kirsten Sobieski, executive director of MHVI. “They are pillars of the community, and it’s great to see them help us and help the veterans.”

Sobieski is a veteran herself, having spent 10 years with the Army and Army Reserves, including two on active duty. She also orchestrates a program within MHVI, the Women Veterans Initiative (WOVIN), which helps female veterans learn more about opportunities available to them through veterans’ organizations.

“The We Energies Foundation is pleased to support Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative as they work to help homeless and at-risk veterans in our community reach and maintain their highest levels of independence,” said Beth Straka, senior vice president – corporate communications and investor relations, WEC Energy Group, and vice president, We Energies Foundation. “We look forward to a winning Brewers season and a successful K’s for a Cause promotion.”

Individual game and season-long strikeouts will be tracked on Miller Park’s new K meter – an 80-foot digital sign, located in right field.

The donations made through K’s for a Cause will go to the MHVI emergency fund. Sobieski indicated that the donations support everything from keeping veterans in financial crisis from becoming homeless to putting gas in the MHVI delivery trucks. “Without government money, we rely heavily on these types of donations to make sure we can do all the things that we do without anything falling through the cracks,” said Sobieski.

Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative

Monday, July 10, 2017

Cookie Book sneak peek

For our customers, the Cookie Book is a holiday tradition. For us, it’s a year-round effort! Monday was our photo shoot for the 2017 book, and we have some delicious images to share with you.

Food photographer Grace Natoli Sheldon arranges
cookies during Cookie Book photo shoot.
This year’s edition celebrates those who grow and produce products made right here in Wisconsin. From cranberries to honey to cherries – and even beer and cheese – many Wisconsin products are featured in the 31 recipes that make up this year’s book.

The complete distribution schedule will be available Aug. 3, but signature events already are set for Saturday, Nov. 4, at Miller Park in Milwaukee and Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton.

Since its inception nearly 90 years ago, the Cookie Book has remained a favorite of holiday bakers. Visit our recipe page for past books, videos and more.

We Energies recipes

Friday, July 7, 2017

Cookie Crumbs: Celebrate National Sugar Cookie Day July 9

We Energies Cookie Book recipes are perfect for celebrations of all kinds – including National Sugar Cookie Day, which happens to be July 9. Sugar cookies have been featured many times since we started producing Cookie Books back in 1928. Here are a couple of recipes – one from an early book book and one from last year.

Our 1932 book featured this recipe:














Our 2016 book featured this one:

Mother’s Sugar Cookies 
3 cups all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons cream of tartar 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces 
2 eggs 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Coarse or colored sugar, optional 

In mixing bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. In medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla; mix into flour mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On floured surface or cloth, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with 2-1/2-inch cookie cutters; place on ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with coarse or colored sugar, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Cool on wire cooling racks. Makes about 3 dozen.

So, not much has changed concerning sugar cookies in more than 80 years of appearances in our cookie books. The ingredients are about the same – and how much people love them.

Need some baking inspiration? Our Cookie Book archive has recipes dating back to the 1930s. Check it out today. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Search begins for new canine safety ambassador

Does your dog dig holes in the yard? Instead of scolding Fido, grab a camera!

We’re looking for a new canine safety ambassador to star in our safe digging campaign. Your dog can help us spread an important safety message: Doggone it! Call Diggers Hotline (811) before you dig. 

Whether you’re planting a tree or installing a fence post, you could be putting yourself in danger if you strike an underground natural gas line or electrical cable. Now, your furry friend can help us raise awareness about safe digging.

If your pet makes the cut, his/her picture will be featured in We Energies promotional material – including a grand unveiling at Energy Park at the Wisconsin State Fair.

The ad featured here shows the winners of last year’s campaign, Darby and Boca. A similar ad will be developed with this year’s winner.

Rules
  • One photo of dog digging
  • One entry (photo) per person with your name and address, and dog’s name 
  • Must be We Energies customer
  • Must be available to attend unveiling at Wisconsin State Fair on Friday, Aug. 11 at noon with your dog (tickets will be provided)
  • Photo quality of at least 150 dpi – .jpg or .tiff format preferred
Submit photo entries by midnight July 16 to contest@we-energies.com. Photo will be used on our social media channels and may be used by media outlets as well.

We’ll narrow down the entries to a list of finalists for a public vote. The winner will be unveiled in a ceremony at Energy Park on Aug. 11 (8-11), a day to raise awareness about dialing 811 to have utility facilities marked before digging.

The winner will receive tickets to the Wisconsin State Fair, a prize basket of treats for their famous furry friend and bragging rights about their canine’s cameo at Energy Park.

Good luck!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Scout’s honor for lifetime of leadership

Executive Vice President Joan Shafer’s career at We Energies had a humble start. She did clerical work for the company straight out of high school.

“It was so boring, I decided not to return the following summer!” recalls Shafer. Eventually she did return, and perhaps that mundane first assignment served as motivation to achieve more.

Now, Shafer is being honored for her lifetime of leadership by the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast. It is an organization she cares deeply about. Shafer was a Girl Scout herself and later became a troop leader for her daughters’ groups. She served on the organization’s board of directors for seven years, including four as its chair.

Joan Shafer, center, accepts her award.
Shafer’s career at We Energies has followed a similar trajectory. Shafer rose through the management ranks in human resources, operations and customer service before being promoted to her current role as executive vice president – human resources and organizational effectiveness of WEC Energy Group. She credits her Girl Scout experience with helping her develop the skills she uses today.

“Girl Scouts has been instrumental in my leadership and in my daughters’ lives,” Shafer said. “It taught me how to work in a group, know myself and my strengths, connect with others, and play a role in their development through empathy, compassion and empowerment.”

On June 29, Shafer was presented with a 2017 Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast Leadership Award. She and other award recipients were honored at an event commemorating 100 years of Girl Scouting in southeastern Wisconsin.

In the community, Shafer also is an advocate for education as a trustee for Mount Mary University and a member of the Alverno College School of Business advisory board. She is the vice chair of Partners Advancing Values in Education (PAVE) and the secretary of Seton Catholic Schools. She was previously presented with an Athena Award for outstanding leadership, and in in 2012, she was named an Outstanding Volunteer of the Year by the United Way of Waukesha County.

Shafer’s advice to Girl Scouts looking to be leaders in their communities: “The first rule is to show up and try it, put yourself in that environment, and dismiss the phrase ‘I can’t do that.’”


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cookie Crumbs: Celebrate Summerfest with smiley-face cookies

We Energies Cookie Book recipes are perfect for celebrations of all kinds. No matter the occasion, you’ll find a recipe that’s just right.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Summerfest. Conceived by then-mayor Henry W. Maier and inspired by his visit to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, Summerfest has come a long way over the past five decades.

The same year that Bob Hope and Dolly Parton were headliners (1969), the We Energies Cookie Book included a recipe that featured smiley-face cookies, although they were called Funny Face Cookies. They are sure to put a smile on your face as you celebrate the first day of Summerfest.

Funny Face Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces sweet cooking chocolate, melted

Cream butter; beat in sugar, egg and extracts. Blend in sifted dry ingredients. Divide dough in half. Mix chocolate into half of dough. Chill. Roll each dough section 1/8 inch thick on floured surface. Cut with 2-inch round cutter.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Cut eyes and mouth out of each cookie. Replace with eyes and mouth cut out of contrasting cookie dough. Chill if dough becomes too soft. Bake at 350 degrees about 7 minutes. Makes about 7 dozen.

Need some baking inspiration? Our Cookie Book archive has recipes dating back to the 1930s. Find your new favorite today!

We Energies recipes

Monday, June 26, 2017

Would-be scammer snared by social media post

We’re always on the lookout for criminals trying to scam our customers. When we were alerted about this post on Facebook, we notified Milwaukee Police:


The police suspect this was a scam to illegally re-connect customers and shared it with the person’s parole officer. Now, state authorities tell us the ex-con has been arrested for violation of parole due to the alleged illegal activity implied in his post.

Disconnected customers should avoid such scams. Remember:
  • Hiring an unauthorized party to illegally reconnect electric service could cause damage and lead to safety hazards such as electrocution or fire. 
  • Paying money for illegal reconnection does not erase past-due balances; that money is better spent making payment arrangements with us for positive reporting to credit agencies.
Energy theft is dangerous, illegal and expensive. Ultimately, we all end up paying for energy theft because the company recovers those costs in every customer’s bill.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Answers to common questions about power outages - Part 1

Reliable service is a hallmark of We Energies, but sometimes power outages happen. Here Dave Megna, vice president – Wisconsin system operations, and Duane Miller, manager – gas and electric distribution operations, answer five common questions about what you should do if one occurs.

Dave Megna, vice president -
Wisconsin system operations
What should I do if I have a power outage?

Dave: The first thing you want to do is call We Energies on the power outage hotline (800-662-4797) or report your outage online. Then give specifics about what you’re experiencing. Any information that you can provide – including anything you saw or heard – will help us better respond.

Do you know when my power is out, or do I need to call?

Dave: We do need you to contact us because the more reports we get, the better our system can pinpoint the damaged area or the outage that occurred. Making the phone call helps us restore power faster.

Should I assume that my neighbor is calling and I don’t need to contact you, or is it important for everybody in the neighborhood to call?

Dave: The more people that contact us, the better. Even if you think your neighbor will call, you should still report it. In fact, many people end up being out of power much longer because they figure somebody else took care of it.

Duane Miller, manager -
gas and electric distribution operations
What if my power isn’t out but I see something unusual, such as a flash or a downed wire, or I hear a boom?

Duane: It is very helpful for you to contact us because we can use that information. Quite often what you saw or heard may lead us to the cause of the incident and help us to restore other customers much more quickly, even if your power isn’t affected.

When should I call an electrician instead of We Energies?

Duane: You should call an electrician rather than We Energies if you have power in most of your home except one room or a very small section, or if there is a problem with the internal wiring in your home.

Dave: There are other cases when you might need both We Energies and the electrician. For instance, if a tree comes down and takes down your service mast – the pipe that runs up the side of your house that our wires connect to – you’ll need an electrician to put the mast back up and you’ll need We Energies to reinstall service.

Sometimes that can be a situation where you don’t know until We Energies comes out, but we may not be able to get there right away if it was a big storm. So if that wire is on the ground, report it so that we can get there, but then you’ll still need an electrician.

Even if you think your neighbor will call, you should still report outages 
or damage. What you saw or heard may help restore power more quickly.

Ready for s’more summer!

We Energies Cookie Book recipes are perfect for celebrations of all kinds. No matter the occasion, you’ll find a recipe that’s just right.

Summer is officially here! What better way to celebrate than with a classic summertime treat, s’mores? The original recipe for this all-American dessert was first published in 1927 as “Some Mores” by master campers, the Girl Scouts. 


But if you don’t find yourself sitting around a campfire as summer rolls in, try this kitchen-friendly twist on the fireside favorite. The 1991 We Energies Cookie Book featured the following recipe that includes graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, but uses some easy baking, an 8-inch-square pan and your oven’s broiler to bring the s’mores indoors.   

S’mores

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
½ cup butter or margarine
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

18 marshmallows cut into halves

Mix graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons melted butter in 8-inch square baking pan; press evenly in bottom of pan. Melt chocolate and  1/2 cup butter in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar and the eggs; mix in flour and salt. Spread batter over crust. Bake at 325 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Turn oven to broil. Place marshmallows, cut sides down, on cookies. Broil 6 inches from heat source until marshmallows are puffed and golden (watch carefully!). Cool on wire rack. Cut into 18 squares (2 marshmallows per square), cutting through marshmallows with scissors dipped in water. Makes 1 ½ dozen.

Need some baking inspiration? Our Cookie Book archive has recipes dating back to the 1930s. Go online and find your new favorite today!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Martin recognized as Woman of Influence by Milwaukee Business Journal

Many in the Milwaukee business community are familiar with Susan Martin’s legal background and her current roles as executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of WEC Energy Group. But Martin had a very different career previously – as an English professor.

Martin shared that history with the Milwaukee Business Journal as the publication interviewed her for its Women of Influence awards. She was recognized in the Corporate Executive category.

“I considered law school when I finished undergrad. But I chose to follow my first passion and pursue a Ph.D. in literature and language,” Martin said. “In many ways, the core work remains the same – reading and deciphering written texts, using language effectively to communicate and persuade.”
Susan Martin with Mark Kass of the Milwaukee Business Journal.
During her interview, Martin also discussed her role in the company’s acquisition of Integrys Energy Group and her key involvement in the Power the Future plan.

Martin and other Women of Influence award winners were recognized at a luncheon at the Wisconsin Center June 16. It was not her first honor from the Business Journal. In 2015, she was recognized as one of the publication’s Top Corporate Counsel award winners.

Martin is an active community member in Milwaukee, serving on the boards of the Milwaukee Public Museum, the United Community Center and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. She has been with the company since 2000.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Crews restored power to more than 100,000 customers this week

It has been a very busy week for We Energies crews after several rounds of severe weather. All told, our crews restored power to more than 100,000 customers in different parts of our service territory. 


It started Sunday, June 11, with severe weather in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That led to outages for more than 10,000 customers.


On Monday, June 12, severe storms hit Southeastern Wisconsin, impacting tens of thousands of additional customers. Hardest hit areas included Washington, Dodge and Fond du Lac counties.

Even more severe weather arrived Wednesday night, causing severe damage in our Fox Valley service territory. In nearby Green Bay, our sister company, Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), also saw immense damage in one of the worst storm events in the company’s history. WPS crews restored power to nearly 175,000 customers since last weekend.


We thank our crews for their tireless efforts, many of them working double shifts multiple days in a row in hot and humid weather. And we especially thank our customers for their patience throughout these events. Many of you have commented on our social media pages to thank our crews, and we really appreciate it.