Friday, November 30, 2012

Flashback Friday: Electric service truck

A new form of advertising was on the rise when vehicles such as this electric service truck became signboards on wheels in the early 1900s. Formed in 1896, The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company became known as "The Electric Company" as shown on this truck.

In 1938, the name changed to Wisconsin Electric Power Co., sometimes known as WEPCO. In 1987, the company restructured and established Wisconsin Energy Corporation. In 1996, Wisconsin Electric merged with Wisconsin Natural. Six years later, Wisconsin Electric merged with Wisconsin Gas and began doing business as We Energies, reflecting the attributes of the two organizations.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Whether collecting stuffed animals or filling boxes of food for seniors, employees share personal time, resources

Volunteers who helped out Hunger Task Force.
Teams of our employees recently shared their personal time to help many in need. In one activity, they put together  Hunger Task Force stockboxes, which provide healthy food for low-income seniors. Each box contains 16 healthy items, including rice, cereal, juice, beef stew, pasta and vegetables. The Hunger Task Force delivers the boxes to low-income seniors free of charge. Each month, nearly 10,000 boxes are delivered to seniors, helping them stretch their budgets.

Our team of employees and family members built a total of 480 stockboxes in just three hours.

“It was a great feeling knowing we helped so many,” said Ceil Nish. “As I placed the food in the boxes and looked at the items, it was sad to think this might be the only food some have in their home for days. I hope we can help them out again! It also reminded me how fortunate I am to have a good job working at a great company with so many amazing co-workers.”

“It felt good to help others, to work hard and know that we were working all together to give back a little bit to make someone’s day a little better,” said Nettie Raue.

“Just knowing we were doing this to help better the lives of others was thanks enough,” said Socorro Gonzales. Tiffany Greer summed up the thoughts of the team, noting “it’s amazing how easy it is to give just a little of yourself to help those with greater needs.”

In addition, our customer service and field service supervisors conducted a drive within our Customer Operations department to collect stuffed animals. Fifty-four stuffed animals were donated to the Comfort Creature program at Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee and 62 went to Goodwill. The stuffed animals are used by the hospital to help put a child at ease when coming to the emergency room or hospital, or when coming to the hospital with an ill adult.

Goodwill sells the animals, using the sales to fund job training programs, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Flashback Friday: Roasters

This early roaster ad touts portability.

If you used an electric roaster in preparing your Thanksgiving turkey yesterday, you weren't alone. Roasters have been widely used since the 1940s because they could cook a complete meal with minimal attention. The roaster could cook meat, vegetables and dessert all at the same time. 

The first roasters were produced in the 1930s by Milwaukee's National Enameling and Stamping Company (Nesco®). The new  "portable oven" was part of the first joint marketing effort between an appliance manufacturer and one of our predecessor companies. Nesco and utility representatives went to farms throughout Wisconsin selling the Nesco roaster ovens and light bulbs as utilities expanded electric service to rural families that were cooking on wood stoves.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Manage energy use in your kitchen during holidays

New kitchen appliances use about half the energy as those built just a decade ago, but holiday entertaining can increase use of appliances for cooking, freezing, refrigerating and dishwashing, that adds to your bill. To manage energy use, consider these tips:

  • Don’t preheat the oven for turkey, ham or other foods that cook slowly over a long time. 
  • Avoid peeking into the oven. Use the light and look through the window. 
  • Cook several items at the same but leave enough space for heat to circulate. 
  • Turn off the heat several minutes before the food is done. If the door remains closed, existing heat can finish the job. 
  • Reduce heat 25 degrees or reduce cooking time if using glass or ceramic pans, which conduct heat better.
  • Use your oven’s self cleaning feature right after cooking to take advantage of residual heat – if the oven needs cleaning. 
  • Match the pan size to the heating element. A 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner wastes about 40 percent of the energy. 
  • Turn off burners a couple minutes before cooking is done to use residual heat.
  • Keep burners and reflectors clean. If you replace reflectors, the better ones can save about a third of the energy used on the stovetop. 
Other cooking tips
  • Use a microwave oven for baking yams, steaming vegetables or other small portions of food. Saves about half the cost of using the stove. 
  • Consider slow cookers, toaster ovens, electric skillets and other small appliances, which use less energy than a stove. 
  • Consider grilling the turkey outdoors – weather permitting – to avoid the oven. 
  • Keep doors closed as much as possible. A longer opening one time is better than repeated opening. 
  • Consider using an ice chest/cooler for drinks rather than the refrigerator. 
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer full to help it recover quickly after opening and closing. 
  • Don’t cram. While full is good, cramming blocks circulation, making it work harder. 
  • Wash only full loads when using the dishwasher.
  • Use energy-saving cycles when possible. 

More money-saving tips

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flashback Friday: Horsecar

Milwaukee pioneer George Walker, launched the city’s first horsecar line in 1859. The horsecars moved at 6 miles per hour and cost anywhere from $6 to $7 a day to operate.

Lack of speed, equine epidemics, cost and mountains of manure drove the invention of a new form of transportation: an electric streetcar. Charles Van Depoele introduced electrified transit as a more permanent and cost efficient solution.

A number of electric trolley systems emerged, and in January 1896 they were consolidated into The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co. (TMER&L Co.), forerunner of today’s We Energies.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crews return home from Hurricane Sandy restoration work

After approximately two weeks away providing assistance to utilities affected by Superstorm Sandy, our crews and contractors returned to Wisconsin on Nov. 14. The crews were greeted by news reporters at the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s I-94 Visitor Information Center in Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

John Pilling, area manager – customer operations, told reporters how grateful people were to have our help, especially when they heard how far the crews had traveled.

Our crews earned a reputation for being hard workers. A Consolidated Edison (ConEd) representative told the group that he was very impressed with the work ethic of our crews and supervisors. The crews typically would leave the hotel at 5:30 a.m. and return at 8 or 9 p.m.

“He would often comment that we were asking for more work earlier in the day than other crews and noticed that we always asked for more orders before our present work ran out so we could check jobs ahead of the crews getting there,” said Pilling. “He said that the work dispatchers had a nickname for We Energies crews — ‘The Machine’ — a nice compliment to our employees!"

Line mechanics returned to Wisconsin Nov. 14 after helping restore 
service in areas of New York pummeled by Hurricane Sandy.
Crews stopped at the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s I-94 
Visitor Information Center in Pleasant Prairie.
Several of our line mechanics were interviewed about their experience.
Links to some of the coverage:

Fox6 Milwaukee
CBS58 Milwaukee

Wisconsin Pillar from WWII Memorial dedicated at Coal Dock Park

A replica of the Wisconsin Pillar from the WWII Memorial that stands in Washington, D.C., was dedicated Nov. 9 in Coal Dock Park, in Port Washington, Wis., as a tribute to all Wisconsin veterans. We were one of the sponsors of the dedication event, which was hosted by the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight organization.

Gale Klappa, our chairman, president and CEO, one of the speakers at the event, said, “As I was preparing my remarks for today, I couldn’t help but remember the words of the great American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson. He wrote: The years teach much which the days never know.”

He continued: “And today—through the perspective of time and the prism of history—we understand much better the enormity of the challenge, the magnitude of the sacrifice, and the valor of the young men and women who fought fearlessly for our freedom during World War II.

Ceremonies for the pillar dedication were conducted Nov. 9. 

More than 200 people attended the event.
“On behalf of the men and women of We Energies, I’m delighted that the World War II Wisconsin pillar has found a permanent home in the shadow of our new Port Washington generating station and on the grounds of our former coal dock, which is being transformed into a beautiful venue called Coal Dock Park.

“The pillar will stand here for generations who will gather to remember and to honor those whose lives gave new meaning to the idea of service above self.”

Wisconsin Energy, our parent company, has partnered with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight since its inception, helping sponsor flights to Washington, D.C., to take WWII veterans to see their memorial and the other historic sights, as well as the Field of Honor event this past August at Miller Park.

See more images at Visual Image Photography

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Flight of the falcon: peregrine rescued at Oak Creek

The rescue of a peregrine falcon has made newspapers across the country, thanks to the quick thinking of peregrine manager Greg Septon.

Septon recently learned that Eclipse, a peregrine who had successfully nested in our new air quality control system (AQCS) nest box at the Oak Creek Power Plant this year, was trapped inside the waste water building at the site. The falcon couldn’t escape and with options limited, Septon figured he may be able to lure the bird from her perch with a live pigeon.

Septon explains what happened next:

“The plan was to show her the pigeon and then gradually walk back down the stairs, luring her to the ground level where I’d left some doors open for her. But this particular falcon was hungry and had more immediate plans. I’d no more than begun to show her the pigeon when in an instant she left her perch and dove straight down at me, striking and binding to the pigeon that I still held in my right hand. It was a little exciting to say the least, and with my left hand free, I grabbed the peregrine and was able to get her to let go of the pigeon. So, there I stood with an angry peregrine in one hand and a nerve-wracked pigeon in the other. Before things got entirely out of hand, I was able to put the pigeon back in a small cardboard box and wrap the falcon in a yellow rain coat that I conveniently found nearby.”

Septon safely released Eclipse outside, and she is expected to be okay. Septon also was able to return the pigeon to its owner, who had loaned the racing pigeon to Septon for the rescue effort.

Read more about the rescue in this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article: 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Flashback Friday: Cookie Book

Visitors to our headquarters line up to view a cookie display 
and get copies of our Cookie Book in 1938.
First introduced in 1928, when  We Energies was known as The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co., the Cookie Book gained great popularity among our customers.

By the early 1930s, scores of holiday bakers took the trolleys to the Public Service Building in downtown Milwaukee to receive the complimentary recipe book, complete with helpful cooking and energy tips. Our Home Service Bureau would arrange displays of cookies, candies and fruitcake, and demonstrate how to use new kitchen appliances, which we sold in our retail store.

In the mid-1960s, winter displays adorned the windows of the Public Service Building to promote the cookie book distribution. The tradition ended in the early 1970s when rising costs led us to promote energy conservation rather than consumption.

The book made a comeback in 1984 and a couple new editions were printed in the 1990s and another in 2002. Since 2006, the book has been printed each year, restoring the annual tradition. Typically distributed in November, the Cookie Book is made available at more than two dozen locations across our service area.

This year, more than 200,000 books were printed. Get distribution details at our website where you also can view previous editions.

Recipes and cookie books

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cookie Book Q and A

Why does We Energies produce a Cookie Book?
The Cookie Book originally was produced as a goodwill gesture to customers. To this day, customers are eager to get the latest edition.

How are recipes chosen? 
Each year is a little different. This year, we asked customers to submit recipes. In the past, we asked active and retired employees for recipes, or we used favorites from previous editions.

When was the first one produced?

Are they produced every year? 
We have produced a book each year since bringing it back in 2006. The book only was produced a few times in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Are old editions available? 
We have placed all the editions we could find on our website's Recipes page.

Does it impact customers' energy costs? 
Costs associated with the book are minimized because we use internal resources, and the production costs do not impact customer rates.

How are distribution locations chosen? 
For smaller events, we use our service centers. For larger events, we look for venues that customers can safely and easily access, such as Miller Park in Milwaukee or Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton. Books also are distributed by our field employees on customer appointments.

What happens to extra books and old editions? 
A number of books are archived each year. Typically, we don’t have extra books after our distribution events end.

Will there be another one next year? 
The decision is made each year, based on budget and other constraints.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crews help make repairs in aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Our crews have been assisting in restoring service in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy since Oct. 31. 

Crews were first dispatched to assist DTE Energy in the Detroit area, including Port Huron and Lapeer. Following restoration to those communities, the crews headed further east to assist Consolidated Edison in New York. After driving 13 hours, our crews arrived Nov. 3 at a staging area at Citi Field and then began working the next day in nearby Queens, N.Y., where the work continues.

Between our employees and contract crews, we have dedicated about 130 personnel resources to the relief effort.

Line crew repairing power lines in Queens, N.Y.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We celebrate Veterans Day, Nov. 11

We join in celebrating Veterans Day on Nov. 11 and extend our gratitude to our many employees and customers who have served or continue to serve in the various branches of the U.S. armed forces. Our company has benefited from the skills that many employees obtained through their military experience and brought with them to We Energies.

We have been a long-time supporter of veterans activities, with the Wisconsin Energy Foundation being one of the first Milwaukee-area sponsors of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program, which flies WWII veterans and terminally ill veterans from other wars to see their memorials in Washington, D.C. The foundation underwrote the production of the “Every Day is a Bonus – the Story of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight” documentary in 2011 and the corporation sponsored the "Field of Honor" event at Miller Park earlier this year.

We also have been involved in the Wounded Warrior Project, which assists and raises awareness of the needs of injured service members, and we have been recognized in the past as a top 100 military-friendly employer.

Veterans Day is a federal holiday honoring armed service veterans. It coincides with holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other parts of the world, and marks the anniversary of the signing of the armistice in 1918 that ended World War I.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Flashback Friday: Electric water heater

This 1941 ad touts the benefits of electric water heaters – warm bathing water for families – and promotes electric water heaters as safer, easier and more efficient than gas models. An Englishman, Benjamin Maughan, invented the first instant water heater in 1868 called “The Geyser,” a device where the water was heated as it flowed into the bath. They were known to be dangerous.

Maughan’s invention influenced the designs of a Norwegian mechanical engineer named Edwin Ruud, who immigrated to Pittsburgh and invented the electric water heater. Ruud's design consisted of a large tank to store water and an electric heat source to warm it to the desired temperature.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Klappa wins CEO award

Gale Klappa, chairman, president and CEO, received the Responsible CEO of the Year award from Corporate Responsibility Magazine in October.

Award presentation and acceptance speech:

Beware of phishing scams that ask for account numbers, log-in information

By now, most people can spot a phishing scam quickly by looking at the email address that the sender used to send the message. It’s easy to detect a bogus message that should be deleted without taking the requested action – which results in sharing of personal information, including banking information or other vital data.

Customers have reported, from time to time, receipt of an email offering them the opportunity to have their energy bill paid, either as a “winner” of a special offer or another fabricated situation. In no instance should you provide the requested information.

We never contact customers and ask for their user ID, password, Social Security number or other sensitive information over the phone or in an email.

Always be certain you are using our website to access your account online. Some scammers include links to web addresses that are similar but not the same as our address, which is Sites that use a web address such as, or other name are not ours and should not be used.

Please be aware of such scams and help your friends and neighbors avoid them, too.