Friday, February 15, 2019

Unique program helps students explore careers in energy

On any given day Khari Pleas-Carnie isn’t sure what adventures he will find at his job. One day he might be climbing a power pole at the training center, and the next helping to restore power to an entire apartment complex. What makes Khari’s experience all the more impressive is that he is an 18-year-old senior at Milwaukee’s Bradley Tech High School.

“Being chosen as an intern here at We Energies has been a life-changing experience for me,” Khari said.

Milwaukee Public School students participate in a program
that introduces them to careers in energy. 
Khari is one of a group of high school students taking part in two unique internship and apprenticeship programs offered by We Energies and Milwaukee Public Schools. They’re designed to help high school students explore career options in energy. All of the students work full time during their summers, and some even work part-time during the school year, earning both a paycheck and college credits.

“It has been a great pleasure for us to work with MPS to develop this program, and see the students succeed and the skill sets they develop over the course of their time with us,” said Tom Metcalfe, president – We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service.

Electric field internship

Students in the electric field internship get hands-on experience working with the tools and equipment that line technicians use on a daily basis. Over the course of the first month, the students are educated on safety, construction materials and basic electric theory. For the rest of the summer, they are partnered with We Energies electric operations crews to gain hands-on experience performing work in the field.

“Working with the crews this summer was like working with a family who encourages you to be the best you can be out in the field,” said Khari.

Design youth apprenticeship program

The design youth apprenticeship program gives students a two-year opportunity to learn in an office setting. The students design construction prints, and then visit the job sites to see how their designs are being implemented. The program also allows students to earn up to 12 college credits that will transfer to Milwaukee Area Technical College once they graduate.

Recently, some of our interns and apprentices had the chance to show off their skills in front of an impressive audience. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman, State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, MATC President Dr. Vicki Martin and Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley visited a We Energies training center to see the programs in action.  

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes speaks with students that
demonstrated their newly acquired skills.
Instructors set up and supervised stations where students demonstrated their newly acquired skills and answered questions from the special guests.

“When people have these career pathways, it helps them, because they have something to look forward to. So I’m excited about the opportunities that have been presented today and I’m hoping that we can work to expand these types of programs,” said Lt. Gov. Barnes.

Our youngest employees are also excited. Alejandro Tello, a senior at Ronald Reagan High School and a design youth apprentice, told the lieutenant governor he jumped at the opportunity to work for We Energies.

“To be able to work at a Fortune 500 company is absolutely amazing,” Alejandro said. “People in their 30s are dying to have a job like this, and at the age of 17, I feel like I hit the jackpot!” 

MPS student Alejandro Tello shared
advice with his peers to work hard in life.
Before his first day, Alejandro got some advice from his dad. “He told me, ‘Alejandro, puedes obtener todo lo que quieres en la vida e si trabajares los más duro.’ In English, that means ‘If you work hard enough you can get anything you want in life.’ That will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

Excellent advice, Alejandro.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Cold weather was no match for We Energies

When the polar vortex hit Wisconsin on Jan. 29, the state practically shut down. From the closing of school and government buildings to the unthinkable – the stoppage of beer deliveries – the historic cold put a freeze on people’s lives. However, through the subzero temperatures, we kept life moving along and our customers warm by providing critical energy to our more than 2 million customers across the state.

The bitter cold did produce some unique challenges to our equipment, which caused scattered power outages. But our workers braved the weather and worked safely and quickly to restore power to customers.

The hard work was recognized by our customers on social media. A video of one crew restoring power has garnered more than 2,500 likes and loves, and thanks flooded in on Facebook and Twitter, with one person writing:
"Thank you to the true heroes that braved the cold so we could have power again!"

The national media also picked up on the work of our crews. The Washington Post talked to a customer in West Allis who had his power restored:
“I was amazed how fast they got it back,” said Dan Bark, whose house sits diagonally across from the damaged power lines. “We were trying to figure out contingency plans.”
Not seen by the public, but also important in keeping the heat on in the cold, are the hundreds of other We Energies workers who keep the power generation going and the gas and steam flowing.

Thank you to all the utility workers across the state and region who kept us all warm.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Be prepared for severe cold weather

Extreme cold weather is blanketing Wisconsin. Our energy distribution systems are built to withstand severe cold, but equipment problems, wildlife damage, high winds, accidents and other causes can knock out power at any time of the year. As always, be prepared to stay safe -- especially during severe cold.

Preparing for power outages
Add our numbers to your cell phone:
  • Power outage or electrical emergency: 800-662-4797
  • Natural gas leak, odor or emergency: 800-261-5325
Assemble an emergency kit and put it where it’s easy to find in the dark. Suggested items:
  • Flashlights, extra batteries
  • Blankets
  • Bottled water — half gallon a day per person
  • Battery-operated radio, extra batteries
  • Canned/dried food, hand-operated can opener
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Special items for infants, seniors or disabled family members
Other considerations:
  • Check on others, especially seniors or anyone with medical conditions
  • Keep pets safe
  • Keep electronic devices, especially cell phones, charged
  • Find out where area emergency shelters are located if you need to leave your home

Coping with power outages
  • Report and get updates on your outage by calling 800-662-4797
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible
  • Use manual operation of garage door
  • Dress in layers to stay warm.
  • Use battery-operated lights rather than candles
  • Unplug or turn off appliances to avoid overloading when power is restored
  • Leave a single light on to alert you when power is restored
  • If you are the only home without power, check your breakers or fuses
  • Close blinds or drapes and avoid opening doors to retain heat
  • Use a generator safely to power your furnace
  • Use a properly vented fireplace or wood-burning stove, if you have one
  • Do not use outdoor grills, kerosene heaters or camping heaters
  • Go to safe shelter if your home becomes extremely cold

Ensuring meter safety
Keeping meters clear of snow and ice allows for safer operation for you and access for us to service meters in case of emergency. If snow piles up, remember these tips:
  • Keep meters clear of snow and ice 
  • Use a brush to gently remove snow from meters
  • Be careful not to bury a meter when using a snow thrower or shovel
  • Remove icicles that may drip water on a natural gas meter and interfere with flow

Avoiding downed power lines
Winter storms, extremely cold temperatures and snow can damage power lines. Downed power lines may still have electricity running through them. There’s no way to tell if they don’t. Many people think a power line will jump, spark or hum on the ground if it is energized. Downed power lines may appear motionless and harmless, but often are silent and deadly.

Responding to natural gas leaks and outages
Natural gas outages are rare; however, equipment failures, digging damage, natural disasters and other causes can disrupt service at any time. Damaged meters and corroded appliance connectors can cause leaks, so we add a foul odor to help detection. If you smell the odor:
  • Leave immediately – do not turn on light switches or use phone
  • Call us at 800-261-5325 from another location

Additional winter weather safety resources
Cold Weather Money Saving Tips
Space Heater Safety
Fireplace Tips
American Red Cross
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Thursday, January 24, 2019

We Energies donates $100,000 to help the homeless

Wind, snow and freezing temperatures can be dangerous, if not deadly – especially for Milwaukee’s homeless population. We Energies is working hard to make sure everyone has a place to warm up on cold winter nights.

“We Energies is stepping up in a major league way to help make sure that the resources are there so that some of our institutions will have the ability to help people come in from the cold,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Barrett and others gathered at the Repairers of the Breach warming center on a cold January day to announce a $100,000 donation from We Energies. The money will help warming centers in Milwaukee stay open longer this winter.

“It is always our focus to make sure that everyone is warm during the cold weather, and this donation is an extension of that,” said Phyllis Eckles, low-income coordinator for We Energies. 

We Energies worked with the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and the Milwaukee Continuum of Care to identify the best use of the donation. The funding will help several homeless organizations make ends meet. It will also allow Repairers of the Breach and St. Benedict the Moor through Capuchin Community Services to open their overnight warming rooms an additional 55 nights this winter. In the past, they were only able to open when the temperature dipped below 10 degrees. This winter, they will open as soon as it hits 20 degrees.

“We Energies, our reliable energy company, is how most of us keep our places warm all year long,” said Amy Lindner, president of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. “Because of We Energies’ commitment to keeping everyone in our community safe and warm, great places like the Benedict Center and Repairers of the Breach are able to serve people, and frankly, save lives this winter.”

Both St. Ben’s and Repairers of the Breach will now be able to shelter up to 125 adults on a walk-in basis on nights below 20 degrees. The funding will also support Tippecanoe Church; the Benedict Center, which helps women in the sex trade; and the Adullam Family Warming Center, which serves families.

How to stay safe with space heaters

Winter has arrived in full force. Temperatures and snow have fallen, and your furnace is working more often. Maybe you are using a space heater to fight the winter chill.

Portable space heaters can be convenient for single-room use when central heating is inadequate or costly, but they involve some risk. If you plan to use a space heater, make sure to follow these safety guidelines.

The primary dangers to keep in mind are fire ignition and improper venting. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters cause more than 1,000 residential fires each year.

To reduce risk: 
  • Only purchase newer models with current safety features, including a switch that automatically shuts off the unit if it tips over. 
  • Place the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic and out of reach of young children and pets. 
  • Avoid using extension cords and don’t overload circuits. 
  • Keep the heater at least 6 feet away from blankets, furniture, drapes and other combustible materials.
Only electric space heaters can function safely without venting. Combustion heaters fueled by propane, natural gas or kerosene, produce gases – including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides – that can cause harm if not vented outside the home. When using a combustion space heater:
  • Follow manufacturer instructions and only use recommended fuel – never gasoline. 
  • Choose a model with an oxygen-depletion sensor to shut off operation if carbon monoxide rises to a dangerous level.
  • Examine the heater regularly for vent blockage, rust and corrosion, which could lead to gas buildup. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a yearly professional inspection.
These tips will help you enjoy a warm and healthy home throughout the winter. Any savings from using a space heater will depend on room size and insulation as well as temperature settings. Find more ways to reduce heating costs on our website.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Winter is here; keep you and your family safe and warm

Winter is a challenging time for safety and energy usage. Review these winter tips to be prepared and to keep yourself and your family safe and warm.

Energy safety
Staying safe around electricity and natural gas is important year round, but winter requires some special considerations:
  • Keep electric and natural gas meters as well as air vents clear of snow and ice. Use a broom or hands (not a shovel, salt or ice-melting chemical). 
  • If you smell natural gas, leave the area and call us at 800-261-5325 or call 911.
More energy safety tips

Power outage preparation
We work to maintain a reliable power delivery system, but severe weather and other events sometimes cause power outages that require many hours and even days to address. Be prepared and know what to do should a power outage occur:
Outage safety tips

Energy assistance
If you have questions about payment options, call our payment assistance line at 800-842-4565. Many customers in Wisconsin qualify for help in paying energy bills. If you qualify, apply now for energy assistance for the winter heating season. Learn more:
Energy assistance

Scammers claiming to be from an energy company may call or show up on your doorstep demanding money. Don't let a scammer ruin your winter. Learn about these scammers and what to do:
Energy-saving tips
Here are some ideas to save money on heating:
  • Open shades, blinds and drapes to gain the sun’s heat during the day and close them at night to help retain heat. 
  • Adjust your thermostat downward when asleep or away. You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating by turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit from its normal setting (about 68 F in winter) for 8 hours a day. 
  • Leave the thermostat’s fan switch on “auto” so the fan only runs when the furnace runs. Setting the fan to “on” causes it to run all the time (and use energy), whether or not heating is needed.
  • Turn your thermostat down to 55 F if using a fireplace. Older, wood-burning fireplaces tend to be inefficient and can be costly, drawing more heated air out of your home through the chimney than a fire can produce. So, turn the thermostat down when you cozy up in front of the fire. After the fire is out, close the flue damper to keep warm air in the house.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

We Energies launches largest approved solar energy program in Wisconsin

The new year is looking bright with more renewable energy thanks to an exciting new We Energies program called Solar Now. The Solar Now program will create 35 megawatts (MW) of clean energy, equivalent to taking nearly 30,000 cars off the road. This program is the largest approved solar energy project in Wisconsin.

Through the Solar Now program, We Energies will pay commercial, industrial, government and nonprofit customers to host solar panels on their roofs and property. We Energies will handle all installation, maintenance and operation of the solar equipment – providing a turnkey solution to customers wanting to participate in renewable generation.

While the program is aimed at large commercial and government host customers, all customers will benefit. The solar energy that is produced will help reduce fuel costs to all customers while also maintaining fuel diversity and reducing carbon emissions.

Solar Now is a pilot program that caps participation at 35 MW, with 10 MW reserved for nonprofit and government entities. A number of customers, including local governments and school districts, have already expressed strong interest in the program.

“Partnering with We Energies on this program would provide an opportunity for the school district to reduce its carbon footprint and reduce some of its energy costs,” David Weber, president of the Northland Pines School District, wrote in a letter to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) in support of the program.

New Berlin School District Chief Finance and Operations Officer Roger Dickson also wrote a letter of support: “The school district will benefit from the partnership through the opportunity to provide ‘real life’ experience to students on the production of solar power, including measurement and assessment of power and the distribution thereof.”

Outside of the benefits for customers, the Solar Now pilot will provide We Energies with valuable insight into operating distributed solar generation, experience that can be used in the future on other projects.

The PSCW gave We Energies the go-ahead to move forward with testing Solar Now and another new renewable energy program in December.