Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Significant progress achieved in bluff cleanup

The recent aerial photo (at right) shows the extensive progress made since a bluff collapse occurred at our Oak Creek site on Oct. 31.

A 40-ton trailer pulled from the shoreline on Nov. 21 was the final large item to be removed. All items that potentially could have contained fuel or other oil-based fluids also are out of the water as well as the majority of the smaller construction items.

Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Wisconsin DNR and We Energies have jointly concluded that the amount of material that went into Lake Michigan as a result of the collapse is far less than originally estimated. The original estimate of 2,500 cubic yards was a very rough, very preliminary estimate made on the day of the collapse. Now that the Coast Guard, DNR and We Energies have had a chance to thoroughly examine the bluff collapse site, we believe that approximately 725 cubic yards of dry material is the amount that entered the lake.

Read statement on latest information available on bluff collapse and amount of material that went into Lake Michigan. [PDF]

Remaining work includes removal of small debris, additional sediment sampling and restoration of the seawall. The bluff has been stabilized, and the material that slid down the slope has been removed from the area.

Water quality test results released Nov. 11 by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) showed no threat to public health or safety.

DNR page on Oak Creek bluff collapse cleanup, including water quality test results

“Water quality at the spill site is close to the normal water quality of Lake Michigan,” said Lloyd Eagan, DNR water leader for southern Wisconsin. “Outside the spill site, the water quality is normal. There will not be long term impacts to the aquatic environment once the spilled material is removed.”

We continue to work cooperatively with the DNR, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency on the safe and responsible cleanup of the site. We used both land-based and marine-based cranes to lift materials from the water. Most of the material that slid down the now-stabilized slope has been removed.

A portion of the expenses, such as those incurred to remove material and equipment that washed into lake, will be incurred by the company this year as an operational expense and will not be passed on to customers. Completing the root cause analysis of the bluff failure at the site is necessary before we can accurately answer the entire question of who will pay for the recovery costs. Results of the root cause analysis, for example, will help determine whether insurance coverage will apply for any of the costs.


The collapse of a portion of an embankment on the south end of the Oak Creek Power Plant site gave way at approximately 10:45 a.m. Oct. 31. Soil and several tool storage trailers used for construction activity slid down the bluff to the Lake Michigan shoreline. Several construction storage trailers and vehicles were pushed into Lake Michigan as a result.

About a dozen personnel were working in the vicinity at the time of the incident. We accounted for all workers, and no injuries were reported. Most of the construction workers were able to resume work.

The area of the collapse is south of the location where a $900 million air-quality control system for the original units at the Oak Creek Power Plant is under construction. The collapse did not affect operations at the original Oak Creek units or the newer units at the site expansion.

Some of the material that washed into the lake included coal ash used in the 1950s to fill a ravine on the site, which was a common practice by utilities at the time. The practice was discontinued several decades ago.

Coal ash is made up mostly of silica, which is similar to sand, and has not been classified as carcinogenic by the EPA. The agency currently classifies coal ash as nonhazardous. Coal ash is re-used in many ways, including road building and construction.

Site on Oct. 31, the day the collapse occurred.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Boy Scouts set to attend 57th annual Electricity Merit Badge Clinic

A 57-year tradition continues tomorrow, when we host the Milwaukee-area Boy Scouts participating in the Electricity Merit Badge Clinic in our Public Service Building auditorium. 

Approximately 120 Scouts and Scout leaders are expected to attend the clinic. Eighteen employee volunteers will administer written tests and staff project-testing stations. Scouts will demonstrate their electricity knowledge by building electromagnets, splicing insulated wires and completing a written test. To earn the Electricity Merit Badge, Scouts must pass 11 electrical requirements.

Ted Sniegowski and Dennis Mersenski, employees at our Oak Creek plant, organized the clinic again this year. “This is a great opportunity for Boy Scouts to learn about electrical safety and careers in the utility business,” Sniegowski said. “Our company’s commitment to the merit badge program has helped thousands of youth develop technical skills and master the basics of electricity.”

The Electricity Merit Badge is one of the original merit badges adopted by the Boy Scouts of America in 1911. Since then, more than 660,000 Boy Scouts nationwide have earned an Electricity Merit Badge.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Menomonee Falls Service Center opens

Our new Menomonee Falls Service Center is now operational. Located at W140 N9100 Lilly Road, the service center is larger than the old facility and is expected to improve operational efficiencies and reduce overhead costs.

The facility was built to energy-efficient LEED-certified standards, including:

  • Water-efficient landscaping
  • Low-flow water fixtures
  • Optimized energy performance
  • Provisions for alternative transportation
  • Recycled building materials
  • Construction materials from the region to reduce transportation- and energy-associated costs
  • Low-emitting materials
  • Indoor air quality management during construction
  • Energy-efficient lighting systems that maximize natural light for interior workspaces

The new service center features:

  • Space for office and technical workers
  • Storm mobilization area
  • Meeting rooms
  • Locker and lavatory
  • Fitness center
  • Lunch/break room
  • Storeroom
  • 10-bay garage
  • Fleet repair bay
  • Day lighting and energy efficient design features
  • Training area
  • Elevated loading dock

The old service center is closed permanently and will be demolished and undergo environmental remediation. The land will be used by the developer and the village of Menomonee Falls for mixed-used development.

Electric line crews continue to work out of our Calumet Service Center on 73rd and Calumet Road in Milwaukee; however they will relocate to the North Service Center in early 2012, and the Calumet Service will close permanently. Combining resources and closing Calument is expected to reduce facility operating and transportation costs, improve customer response time and enhance work management.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Klappa serves as master of ceremonies for inauguration of UWM Chancellor Lovell

Gale Klappa, chairman, president and chief executive of Wisconsin Energy, served as the master of ceremonies for the inauguration of Michael R. Lovell, the eighth chancellor of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM), on Friday, Oct. 14.

“Our event today officially ratifies Dr. Lovell as chancellor, but it also celebrates this university, the greater Milwaukee community and the entire state of Wisconsin,” Klappa said at the event, which was held on campus in the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts.

In his remarks, Klappa thanked several who previously served UWM as chancellor including – J. Martin Klotsche, Werner A. Baum, Leon Schur, Frank Horton, John Schroeder and Robert Greenstreet.

Many noted members of the university and civic communities spoke at the event, including:

• Michael Spector, president of the Board of Regents

• Dr. Mark Schwartz, representing the faculty’s University Committee

• Jean Salzer, chair of the Academic Staff Committee

• Alex Kostal, Student Association president

• Chris Abele, Milwaukee County executive

• Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee

• Sen. Herb Kohl

• Dr. Harvey Borovetz, a special colleague of Chancellor Lovell, who is a distinguished professor and chair of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering

• Bill Haberman, chairman of the board of the UWM Foundation

• Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System

Reilly and Dr. Schwartz bestowed the symbol of office – a medallion – on Lovell. “It is now my pleasure and honor to bestow this symbol of office and to charge that it be worn honorably and well during what promises to be a long, successful and happy term of office,” said Reilly.

After Lovell’s remarks, Klappa concluded the ceremonies. “Chancellor Lovell, congratulations. You’ll be an outstanding leader at an exciting time for UWM.”

Klappa is a 1972 graduate cum laude of UWM, with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. He is a member of the UWM School of Business Advisory Council. In 2011, Klappa received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree from UWM in recognition of his support of UWM’s growth initiative.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Klappa hosts M7 news conference to announce addition of 76 jobs at Bostik, Inc.

Gale Klappa, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin Energy, hosted a Milwaukee 7 (M7) news conference today at the corporate headquarters of Bostik, Inc., in Wauwatosa. At the event, Bostik announced it was adding 76 new research and development (R&D) and corporate positions at its Wauwatosa location on Watertown Plank Road.

“Bostik’s operation here soon will become a global center of excellence for adhesives technology,” said Klappa, who also is co-chair of the M7. “The products developed here will serve Bostik’s worldwide customer base and strengthen the company’s position as a leader in the adhesives industry,” he said.

Klappa noted that “the global competition to attract jobs – especially high-skilled, high-wage manufacturing jobs like Bostik’s – is relentless. And the announcement we’re making today is the direct result of leadership and teamwork.

“Leadership, of course, is about setting a long-term economic vision, but it’s also about acting decisively on real-time opportunities to attract jobs like those Bostik will be adding here in ‘Tosa.

“Quite simply, the leadership and commitment of our partners in the state of Wisconsin and the city of Wauwatosa made today’s announcement possible,” said Klappa.

Bob Marquette, Bostik president for the Americas, said that the company considered several other options for the location of their global R&D operations, including Shanghai and Paris. “Today’s announcement would not have been possible without the efforts of the M7, the state of Wisconsin and the city of Wauwatosa. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the collaboration of those groups to help us accomplish this initiative.”

Wauwatosa Mayor Jill Didier attended the event. “There’s good reason why Bostik has called Wauwatosa home for more than 25 years and is making a considerable investment to expand here. Wauwatosa is well-known for its attentiveness to the needs of business. Under the mayor’s leadership, ‘Tosa has continued to build on the assets that are attractive to companies and residents alike, making it all the more appealing to companies like Bostik.”

Bostik is among the largest manufacturers of adhesives and sealants in the world. The company provides bonding solutions for the construction, consumer, transportation, packaging, personal care and hygiene, and industrial assembly markets. Bostik currently employs 164 in Wisconsin, with 4,600 globally. In September 2011, Bostik selected Wauwatosa for its consolidated corporate and R&D operations.

Klappa is one of the founding members of the Milwaukee 7, which was launched in September 2005 to create a regional, cooperative economic development platform for the seven counties of southeast Wisconsin: Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha and Washington. Its mission is to attract, retain and grow diverse businesses and talent.

We Energies women assist Habitat project

For the third consecutive year, a group of We Energies women helped construct a Habitat for Humanity home-building project in Milwaukee as part of Habitat’s Women Build program.

“It was a rewarding experience, and we got dirty,” said Patty Galante, manager, customer service – customer operations. “We were responsible for ensuring the walls were properly secured and flat, which involved tightening screws that had popped out. The women crew chiefs from Habitat were very particular that the house had to be perfect for the new owners.”

Bonnie Mohammadi, senior IT applications consultant – information technology services, said learning how to complete a factory edge to butt together the sheets of drywall was valuable. “I also learned how to use a power drill. I had fun, and I made a difference for someone,” she said.

“It was really nice to bond with other employees across the We Energies fleet,” said LaQuita Evans, supervisor – power generation. “I also learned some skills that can save me a few bucks on my own home.”

June Light, collection and litigation specialist – customer services, said the overall experience, including sweeping and hauling debris to a Dumpster, was rewarding because she was helping someone who would soon occupy a new home.

Women Build is an educational and networking opportunity for women to come together to build and fund an entire Habitat for Humanity home. Women from all backgrounds learn construction skills as they help build the home.

The We Energies team will return to the Milwaukee project site on Oct. 29 to help complete the construction.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity website

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Presque Isle Power Plant discussions begin

We're beginning to consider options for the future of Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, Mich., because of proposed changes in federal environmental regulations. The options include:
  • Retiring the plant
  • Converting it from coal to natural gas
  • Adding a new natural gas combined-cycle plant (coincident with retirement)
  • Adding new air quality controls
We believe that new transmission is the best long-term option, and we are working with American Transmission Company to accelerate planning for new transmission facilities.

 No decision has been made on possible retirement of the plant, but current and potential federal environmental regulations make it necessary to consider the plant's future. All of the options require considerable development time.

The decision must make economic sense for customers and ensure a robust and reliable power supply for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Winter heating costs could be less this winter

Our estimate for winter heating costs looks good for our customers. Based on normal winter weather and the natural gas price remaining where it is today on the spot market, we expect the average residential customer to pay between $627 and $634 in winter heating costs.

This would be:
• 4-5 percent ($26-$33) less than the average residential customer paid last winter ($660).
• 17-18 percent ($129-$136) less than the most recent five-year average ($763).
• 28-29 percent ($244-$251) below the cost of the most expensive winter (2007/08 - $878).
• Less cost than nine of the past 11 winters.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Neenah Foundry implements innovative energy-efficient technology

Neenah Foundry's energy-efficient technology on its cabinet coolers is saving more than $141,000 annually.

Cabinet coolers keep critical electronic circuitry in challenging industrial environments clean, cool and dry. Traditionally, cabinet coolers use a high volume of compressed air, which means high energy use.

With the help of Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities’ statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and in partnership with We Energies, Neenah Foundry cut energy costs on its 68 cabinet coolers by more than 50 percent to yield the annual savings.

Studies to reduce energy use showed that retrofitting the company's cabinet coolers with thermostat controls and an integrated purge function would be the most cost-effective energy-saving option.

Neenah Foundry's retrofitted vortex cabinet coolers now use just a small amount of purge air to maintain positive pressure within the cabinets at all times. They only use full air flow when the thermostat calls for cooling. The electronic thermostat operates the same as a standard programmable thermostat, activating only when the temperature inside the cabinet rises to a certain level, preventing the cabinet coolers from needlessly running at full flow.

“Focus [on Energy] found an innovative energy-saving solution,” said Keith Rushford, electrical engineer at Neenah Foundry. “Financial incentives and technical assistance from Focus allowed us to initially move forward with this project, which paid for itself very quickly. During the initial study, we installed and analyzed 38 units. At that point, we realized the high savings potential, and we were able to invest in 30 more cabinet cooler retrofits on our own.”

Ken Williams, Focus on Energy’s business programs director, said, “By implementing this innovative emerging technology into practice, Neenah Foundry met its goal to reduce energy costs without compromising on safety or equipment maintenance practices. The company continues to investigate new technologies and find more ways to save energy — a positive example for other businesses to follow.”

About Neenah Foundry
Neenah Foundry, founded in 1872 and located in Neenah, Wis., produces metal castings such as complex machine parts and municipal castings (e.g., grates, manhole covers and tree grates along city sidewalks). For more information, visit nfco.com.

About Focus on Energy
Since 2001, Focus on Energy has delivered cost-effective energy solutions to Wisconsin residents and businesses. Focus can help businesses identify and evaluate energy saving opportunities, develop energy management plans and arrange technical training opportunities about energy conservation to help improve bottom lines and lower operating costs.

Focus information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed, or to complete projects sooner than scheduled. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect the environment and control the state's electricity and natural gas demand. For more information, call 800-762-7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

PSCW approves proposal to hold base rates at 2011 levels through 2012

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) today approved our proposal to hold customers’ current base rates through 2012, providing certainty about energy costs for the coming year.

In May, we filed the rate proposal which called for no increase in base rates for 2012 in response to the fragile economic recovery expected to continue through next year.

A projected rise in fuel costs for 2012 is expected to be offset partially by returning proceeds from our settlement with the Department of Energy concerning spent nuclear fuel storage.

With today’s decision, we will continue to recover investments already approved by the PSCW to strengthen reliability, comply with changing environmental requirements and meet the state’s renewable energy mandate.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sigma-Aldrich Corp. lights up energy savings

The Sigma-Aldrich Corp. complex in Milwaukee is one of the corporation’s largest energy users. An internal energy team -- facilities manager, maintenance supervisor and project engineer -- developed a three-year plan in 2008 to improve energy efficiency at the complex. Since then, the company has saved more than $250,000, primarily by replacing 99 percent of the facility's lighting.

Illuminating process
Edward Niemiec, CEM facilities manager and key member of the Milwaukee facility energy team, says that Sigma-Aldrich uses a straightforward approach to identifying and implementing energy efficiency projects. "The project must accomplish four things to be considered," said Niemiec. "It must increase energy efficiency, reduce maintenance, improve quality and meet our return-on-investment hurdle rate."

Focus on Energy incentives
All of Sigma-Aldrich's projects in the past three years received Focus on Energy financial incentives. Focus on Energy -- Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy -- helps Wisconsin residents and businesses manage energy costs, promotes in-state economic development, protects the environment and controls the state's electricity and natural gas demand through cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

We Energies assistance
To help Sigma-Aldrich and other business customers that use the most energy, we have an account management organization at We Energies. Account managers conduct joint planning sessions and provide ongoing support for a company's energy needs. "Without the monetary assistance that Focus on Energy provided to meet our ROI threshold and the support and practical energy advice we receive from We Energies, none of these projects would have been completed," said Niemiec. "We are grateful for all their assistance."

New lighting technologyInduction lighting for Sigma-Adrich's outdoor and key production facility areas is responsible for the company's energy savings. Induction lighting is the result of electronically excited mercury vapor emitting short-wave ultraviolet light that excites the bulb's phosphors inside the bulb. The fixtures have a 100,000-hour-rated life due to the lack of electrodes inside the glass tube, which means a practically maintenance-free system.

Project specfics Prior to project implementation, small-scale testing provided the needed proof that the lighting levels improved enough to warrant the project. Improvements ranged from 20 to 30 percent. Sigma-Aldrich worked with Energy Efficient Solutions, Stay-Lite Lighting and Fairway Lighting for full implementation to achieve energy savings of 50 to 60 percent. The projects included: Outdoor lighting replacements and retrofits of 200 metal-halide parking and wall-pack lamps with 70- to 200-watt induction lamps.
  • Production facility retrofits of 247 240-watt metal-halide lamps with 100-watt induction lamps.
  • High-bay warehouse area retrofits of 78 460-watt metal-halide lamps with 165-watt induction lamps and 18 210-watt metal-halide lamps were retrofitted with 55-watt induction lamps.
  • Interior walkway retrofits of 20 210-watt metal-halide lamps with 70-watt induction lamps.

Other projects
In addition to the induction lighting projects, the team installed variable-frequency drives on air handling equipment and pumps, re-lamped 1,000, 32-watt T8 fluorescent lamps with 28-watt T8 lamps, installed occupancy and day lighting controls, outdoor resets on boilers and nighttime setbacks for heating and cooling systems.

Combined, the projects at the Milwaukee facility are at the forefront of Sigma-Aldrich's corporate energy efficiency efforts.

Sigma-Aldrich website

Monday, September 26, 2011

Briggs & Stratton generates savings

Small-engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton Corp. conducts rigorous product testing to ensure dependable performance of its lawn mowers, power washers and portable generators. The company also rigorously maximizes efficiency and reduces waste, which is why the company is capturing some of the power that had been lost during engine testing.

Engine testing
The company tests engines at 100 stations located within three facilities in Wauwatosa, Wis. Engines are tested up to thousands of hours to ensure performance with extended use. During the testing process, resistive load banks simulate actual loads that engines may encounter in the field. As the engines are tested, heat is generated, which is dissipated through the resistive load banks and hydraulic loading.

Innovation at work
Briggs & Stratton investigated options for using the heat generated in the testing process. The company chose power regeneration, a process by which the tested engines are coupled with hydrostatic transmissions that are connected to a magnet generator to produce electricity. The project went unfunded for several years because the project's complexity and equipment required to capture the heat and turn it into power did not meet the payback required for renewable and power generation projects. However, with the support of a funding grant from Focus on Energy, Briggs & Stratton was able to initiate a pilot project last year.

Focus on Energy
Focus on Energy is Wisconsin's statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy program. The program helps Wisconsin residents and businesses manage energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect the environment and control electricity and natural gas demand by helping implement cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Powerful team
The project at Briggs & Stratton required guidance and expertise from several key partners. After applying for Focus on Energy's Competitive Energy Efficiency Incentive, the company piloted 12 testing stations into regenerative stations. Rockwell Automation provided the regeneration equipment as well as engineering expertise to overcome the complex issues associated with transferring power from the engines to the buss work. We Energies provided technical support to connect the power generation to both the Briggs & Stratton and We Energies systems.

Save Energy Now Leader
Briggs & Stratton has a strong commitment to sustainability through corporate and local teams. These teams meet regularly to share ideas for best practices and to identify opportunities for continued improvements. In 2009, Briggs & Stratton became a Save Energy Now Leader. The company is committed to reducing its energy intensity by 25 percent in 10 years and, as a leader, is working with other companies to reduce energy consumption.

Proven winner
While final energy savings resulting from the pilot are not yet available, the projected savings are significant. In addition to energy savings, the new system has increased the capability and flexibility of the testing process, enhanced data acquisition and improved testing accuracy. The system records testing data, such as temperature and engine speeds, and is programmed to alert testers to pending catastrophic failures before they occur.

Perseverance pays off
For anyone considering challenging projects, Richard Feustel, corporate energy services manager at Briggs & Stratton offers this advice, “Do not give up on your idea. Employees knew there was a good opportunity to turn unharnessed power into something sustainable." The team at Briggs & Stratton has shown that with perseverance and the right partnerships, a great idea can become a reality for energy efficiency.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Appleton Medical Center project targets sustainability

To reduce costs and improve efficiency, the Appleton Medical Center, a member of Thedacare, made its new nine-story addition to its facility as sustainable as possible.
The project included energy-efficient lighting, new boilers and solar water heating to supply domestic hot water to patients’ rooms and nursing floors. The measures provide substantial savings and help achieve sustainability goals.
Incentives provided by both We Energies and Focus on Energy helped the Appleton Medical Center install a 48-panel, drain-back solar system in 2010. Since its installation, the panels have provided the thermal equivalent of more than 20,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, saving more than $13,000 per year in energy costs.
On a sunny, zero-degree day in January 2011, the fluid temperature in the panels was 190 degrees. Through a heat exchanger, the fluid was able to heat water in the storage tanks to more than 150 degrees – several degrees hotter than the recommended maximum temperature for any domestic water heating system.
“The system is expected to supply more than 85 percent of the total year-round hot water needs for the new 75-bed addition,” according to Cliff Schneider, AMC Facilities manager. “We’ve been very pleased with this decision as it’s nearly maintenance free and reduces our environmental footprint.”   
Prior to construction, a series of neighborhood meetings were held about the new addition, and the solar panel arrays were designed to minimize visibility from the street.
The total project cost was approximately $168,000, with incentives from We Energies and Focus on Energy covering more than $117,000.

In giving, this group of volunteers received

A dozen of our customer operations supervisors received more than they gave when they shared their time at a meal program on Milwaukee’s south side in August. The 12 customer service and field service supervisors volunteered for an event hosted by The Gathering.

The volunteers worked together for three hours in the late afternoon and early evening, assisting with final food preparation, set up, serving and cleanup. Besides sharing their time, they surprised The Gathering staff with a donation of nine gallons of milk and four containers of coffee, paid with money pooled by the group.

“We had the privilege to not only serve but speak with members of the community who were either homeless or living on a very limited income,” said Jennifer Eisner, customer service supervisor – WAOC, who organized the activity for her peers. “Many of the people who were served didn’t know where their next meal would come from. Though these individuals may struggle daily with circumstances most of us may never encounter, they had wonderful attitudes and outlooks on life. They were pleasant, polite and hopeful for a change in their near future.”

Eisner said the team found the opportunity to serve to be an overwhelmingly positive experience. “The smiles and meaningful words of appreciation were more than we expected and could ask for,” she said. “The experience was humbling, inspiring and motivating. When we left The Gathering, we were already talking about volunteering at The Gathering again and devoting time to other places, people or activities that may need our help.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Contact center's assistance on 9-11 revealed

Our customer contact center's role in the hours following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were reported in news coverage about the event's 10th anniversary.

After the attacks, the U.S. Department of Justice contacted us to ask if we could lend our call center expertise to be a point of contact for family and friends of victims who were seeking information about loved ones who may have been among the thousands who were injured, killed or missing. More than 700 employees – from the contact center and other departments – handled more than 14,000 calls from concerned family members in a little more than two days following the attacks.

Employees interviewed by WISN-TV shared their personal recollections:
WISN-TV report

Friday, September 2, 2011

Crews work to repair extensive Fox Valley damage

Our crews are cutting and clearing many trees in the Fox Valley so they can replace poles or re-string power lines that came down during a storm late this morning with winds near 80 mph that knocked out power to more than 45,000 customers Friday.

Crews from other areas were sent to assist in the Fox Valley restoration effort. In addition to the work of We Energies forestry crews, Appleton’s forestry department is helping clear the city’s main thoroughfares. When the damaged trees are removed, restoration of power can begin.

Due to the extensive damage across several counties in the Fox Valley, the restoration will take longer than usual. While some customers are being restored today, we estimate that it will be late Sunday or early Monday morning before most repairs are completed.

We remind customers to stay away from any line that is down and anything touching it. Always assume a power line is energized.

Customers can view the extent of the outages on our outage map

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Line crews travel to Rhode Island to assist with power restoration following Hurricane Irene

Responding to a call for assistance, we sent sent 29 employees — four managers and supervisors, 24 line personnel and one fleet technician — to Providence, R.I., to help restore power knocked out by Hurricane Irene. The crews left the Racine Service Center Aug. 31, around 9:30 a.m. to assist National Grid.

The caravan forms for the trip to Rhode Island.

Local news coverage:



WDJT 58                               

Monday, August 29, 2011

Employees' bike donations start journey toward helping others

Employees rolled into our West Allis Operations Center last Saturday to drop off 57 gently used bikes and one trike -- all to help others in a number of ways. 

Welcoming the arrival of the donated wheels was the staff of DreamBikes, a nonprofit organization that refurbishes bikes and re-sells them at reasonable prices, primarily to families in low-income communities. A number of the bikes donated by our employees will be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee on behalf of We Energies. 

DreamBikes hires youth enrolled in the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee Area’s Career Launch Program, which helps teens from 14 to 18 years of age learn skills related to computer systems, bicycle repair, customer service and sales, all while under professional management in a safe environment. DreamBikes always welcomes used bikes for its inventory as well as donations of time, money and materials. Learn more at http://dream-bikes.org/.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Employees assist Wounded Warriors Project

Employees in a number of We Energies departments often decide to get involved in volunteer projects as team-building efforts or just to take action when they think it's the right thing to do. Earlier this year, Supply Chain employees felt it was right to get involved in the Wounded Warriors Project, which supports returning military service people who require hospitalization or rehabilitation due to injuries received while deployed.

“Many of our employees, friends or family members are or have been deployed to the Middle East,” explained Gail DeVeau, director – supply chain. DeVeau learned about the Wounded Warriors Project from a high school classmate during their high school reunion last summer. He told her about his involvement in the project. “Shortly after that, one of our supply chain employees was redeployed to Afghanistan. He had been seriously injured on a previous deployment,” she said.

DeVeau brought the idea back to her team. “This was a great way for us to help and to demonstrate that we care,” she said. Wounded Warriors asked the group to collect 500 bottles of Axe shower gel and 500 Gillette razors.

Employees responded enthusiastically. They exceeded the goal on both items. The shower gel and razors were stuffed into backpacks along with other donations and sent to four hospitals where wounded service people are treated.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Meter reader protects public from downed wire

Raul, a meter reader who works out of the Kenosha-Racine Service Center, took appropriate action on July 1 when he noticed a downed wire that was resting on two vehicles parked at a senior assisted-living facility in Kenosha. The wire was one of hundreds that had come down following a storm that hit cities and communities in southeast Wisconsin the evening of June 30.

With the safety of our customers as his top concern, he stopped his meter reading duties to handle the emergency. He taped off the area to prevent anyone from coming in contact with the line and then called our power outage hotline to report the downed wire's location.

He stayed at the site until a crew arrived to make the area safe. While waiting, he had to stop an employee of the senior complex who wanted to duck under the yellow safety tape to get into his car – one of the vehicles under the downed line. He also talked to a group of children who were playing in an adjacent yard, warning them of the dangers of going near the downed wire.

“Safety of others is always more important than reading meters,” Raul said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

AC: leave it on -- or turn it on and off?

Here's a question we hear a lot, especially during heat waves:

Is it better to leave air conditioning running at the same temperature all day -- or turn it off (or raise the temperature) when leaving your home?

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) says to turn if off or raise the temperature when you leave.

Turning it off and on saves a fair amount of energy and helps air conditioners work more efficiently, according to ACEEE. While it may seem that air conditioners work harder to cool a space down from 80 to 76 degrees, the units run more efficiently and dehumidify better. If you have central air--or a window unit with a thermostat--you can save energy by setting the thermostat to a higher temperature when you are out. ACEEE estimates that air conditioners use 3 to 5 percent less energy for every degree you raise the thermostat. ACEEE recommends a thermostat setting of 78 degrees or higher when you’re out.

Fans can help, too. Fans don’t cool a room, but the moving air makes you feel more comfortable at a higher temperature, allowing you to set the thermostat higher and help you feel cool while using less energy. Because fans don’t reduce room temperature, remember to turn them off when no one is in the room.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stay safe during hot weather

Hot and humid weather may cause heat-related health problems for anyone who does not have air conditioning or for anyone working outdoors. Children, older adults and anyone on certain medications are especially vulnerable. Some basic tips to stay safe:
  • Go to an air-conditioned building.
  • Use fans.
  • Stay out of sun.
  • Drink plenty of water before you get thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton.
  • Take frequent short breaks in cool shade.
  • Eat smaller meals before work activity.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and large amounts of sugar.
  • Find out from your health-care provider if your medications and heat don't mix.
Also remember to check on relatives and neighbors to make sure they are taking precautions and are doing OK. The Red Cross offers suggestions about what to do and how to recognize and care for heat-related emergencies in a heat wave.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Falcons hatched at 4 power plants

Peregrine falcons hatched at Port Washington Generating Station, Valley Power Plant in Milwaukee, Pleasant Prairie Power Plant and Presque Isle Power Plant. Here's a photo taken soon after the falcons hatched at Port Washington:

Here's how one of them looked about a month after hatching. The names chosen were:

Port Washington Generating Station: Amara and Kilowatt.
Valley Power Plant: Tesla.
Pleasant Prairie Power Plant: Reliable, Zap and Filament.
Presque Isle Power Plant: Phoenix and Spirit.

Learn more about our work with falcons and owls

Friday, July 1, 2011

Work continues to restore power after high winds hit June 30

Since 8 p.m. June 30 we have restored power to more than 28,000 customers in southeast Wisconsin, primarily in Racine and Kenosha counties. Crews are working safely and as quickly as possible to restore service to the more than 18,000 customers who remain out of service, with 16,000 in the Racine and Kenosha areas.

The most extensive damage – downed wires and trees that have fallen into the wires -- is in Racine and Kenosha counties east of highway 31.

We have contract crews working along with our own crews and also expect to have crews from power companies in Iowa and Missouri on site Saturday to help us with the restoration work.

While we continue to successfully bring customers back into service today, we expect some customers in the hardest hit parts of Kenosha County to be out of power throughout the day on Saturday.

We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to restore service.

Customers are reminded to stay away from any line that’s down and from anything that is touching the line. Don’t assume it’s not a power line and don’t assume it’s not energized.

Please report power outages and any downed wires by calling 800-662-4797.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Two contact center employees save lives during June 9 outage

When storms swept through southeast Wisconsin on June 8, the contact center began receiving outage reports from customers. One of those calls led to life saving action.

The day after the storm, Angela, a seasonal consultant in customer services, took a call from a customer in Greendale, Wis., who had been without service for nearly a day. He called to ask when his service would be restored.

“During our conversation, he told me that he was using a generator to keep his sump pump running and that his two carbon monoxide detectors kept going off — so he just unplugged them,” said Angela. “That got me really concerned.”

She asked the customer either to leave the home or open the windows to let in fresh air. He refused, saying it was too cold and reasoned that if we could just restore his service, he could turn off the generator.

Angela offered to refer the customer to our gas dispatch department to check out his situation, but he declined assistance, ending the call.

Concerned for his safety, Angela consulted Jenea, a contact center support specialist and the floor manager on duty. Together, they decided to call 911 and report the situation. Authorities investigated.

About a week later, the customer called back and asked to speak with Angela. “He told me that I saved two lives that day and that he owed me a million thanks.”

The customer reported that several squad cars and two fire engines arrived. The first responders measured the carbon monoxide levels in his home, which were dangerously high. He said the rescue personnel told him that had he and his wife stayed in the house and gone to bed, they would have died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The customer thanked her for her persistence and compassion and praised the company’s training program and emergency response protocol.

Angela and Jenea are relatively new to their roles in customer services. The night of the 911 call was Jenea’s first evening assignment as floor manager, but they handled the situation effectively – as the customers can attest.

All of our consultants complete five days of outage and emergency training and are trained to recognize emergencies and respond accordingly as was done in this case.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Glacier Hills wind turbine construction begins

Posted by Bob Zahn

The wind turbines in our Glacier Hills Wind Park are now being constructed after a slight delay. Why the delay? No joke. It was too windy.

A large, telescopic crane is being used to erect the first of 90 wind turbines in Columbia County. Eleven trains from Colorado are delivering the 148-foot-long fiberglass blades and the nacelles, which house the gearboxes and generators. More than 800 trucks will travel to the site from Manitowoc, Wis., carrying the steel tower sections, which reach 262 feet when assembled.

The project is on track to be completed by the end of the year. We developed a Wisconsin-based alliance for design and construction. The alliance includes The Boldt Co. of Appleton, Michels Corp. of Brownsville and Edgerton Contractors Inc. of Oak Creek.

The project, which was approved by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in May 2010, will produce up to 162 megawatts, capable of providing power to more than 45,000 homes.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Port Washington peregrine falcon chicks get bands, names

The two peregrine falcon chicks that hatched earlier this month at Port Washington Generating Station now have names. The names were suggested by customers.

The female is named Amara, which was suggested by the family of a 10-month-old girl named Amara Burmeister-White. She suffers from a rare form of cancer. Her family says she has the strength and courage of a falcon and wanted one of the birds to share her name, which means "everlasting." Amara met Amara at the banding, which took place this morning (photo above).

The male falcon is named Kilowatt. Given that he was born at a power plant, Kilowatt seems fitting.

Since we began our peregrine falcon recovery program in 1997, more than 150 peregrines have been produced at our power plant nest boxes.

Here's a short video clip of our two feathered friends...

More coverage:

Wind turbine components arrive in Columbia County

The first wind turbine components are arriving in the project area for the 90 turbines being constructed as part of the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County. Each turbine consists of four tower sections, three blades, a hub and nacelle. The first components to be erected are the bottom two tower sections. Once in place, grouting will be done between the tower and foundation. Next, the top two tower sections will be installed.

Once the tower sections are erected, the nacelle (the enclosure at the top of the tower that contains the generator and transformer), electronic controls and associated equipment will be erected and secured. The nacelle is reached by a ladder that runs inside the tower so technicians can access the turbine components for maintenance and repair. The hub, which is connected to the drive shaft that passes into the nacelle, is then erected, followed by the turbine blades. The blades will be attached to the hub in the air.

When completed, the total height of the turbines, from base to blade tip, will be 410 feet. We expect the first turbines to be operational in August.

Sections for the turbine towers began arriving this week.

Alternative rate request calls for zero increase for 2012

Posted by Bob Zahn

We filed a rate proposal with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) on May 27, which calls for no increase in rates for 2012. If approved, base rates would stay the same for 2012, and we would file a regular rate case next year for new rates in 2013. This alternative approach is being proposed in response to the fragile economic recovery expected to continue through next year.

With this alternative approach, we would absorb costs in 2012 with the expectation that the economy will continue to strengthen into 2013. The projected rise in fuel costs is expected to be offset by returning proceeds obtained from the our successful settlement with the Department of Energy over spent nuclear fuel.

While economic conditions are slowly improving, both residential and business customers continue to feel the impact of the challenging economy of the last few years. A weak housing market, higher costs for groceries and increasing gasoline prices continue to contribute to difficult economic circumstances for customers.

Delaying a rate increase for 2012 may benefit customers, but we still will need to recover investments already approved by the PSCW over the past several years to strengthen reliability, comply with changing environmental requirements and meet the state’s renewable energy mandate.

If the PSCW determines that any part of this approach is not acceptable, we would have to withdraw the plan for no base rate increase in 2012 and then proceed with a traditional, comprehensive base rate request.

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: http://www.we-energies.com/business/pro ... /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.