Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why we advertise … and how it’s paid

You have heard it at the end of our radio ads:

“….paid for by the stockholders of Wisconsin Energy Corporation.”

But exactly what does that mean? Who pays for it? Why do we advertise?

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) limits what type of advertising expenses we can recover in customer rates. Typically, the PSCW allows us to recover advertising costs related to safety, conservation, renewable energy and required legal notices. The costs of other types of advertising may not be recovered in rates and is paid for out of company profits – “by the stockholders.”

In 2012, about 60 percent of our advertising expenses were funded by Wisconsin Energy Corporation stockholders, with most of our advertising focused on customer service and safety.

“The content of our advertising is based on feedback from residential and commercial customers, as well as legal requirements,” said Rick White, vice president – corporate communications. “While we do relatively little advertising, we’ve found that paid advertising is a very cost-effective way to share information about a variety of topics.”

Additional facts about our advertising:

Why we advertise
Although your location determines which utility provides your energy, you may not be aware of the services we offer. We also want to keep you safe around our equipment. On a cost-per-thousand basis, radio advertising is one of the more cost-effective ways to inform you and the rest of our customers about energy costs, money-saving tips, energy assistance, budget and paper-free billing options, and energy efficiency programs.

How much advertising costs
Most of our advertising and sponsorship expenses are not part of your rates. Costs that were recovered in rates were less than a penny per customer per month in 2012. That’s about 12 cents per customer per year. The remaining advertising costs were paid for by Wisconsin Energy stockholders.

How sponsorship ads work 
We sponsor events and activities to strengthen the communities we serve. Sometimes, advertising opportunities come with those sponsorships at no additional cost, and we use those opportunities to provide information about our programs and services. The point of sponsorships is not the advertising, though. We provide sponsorships to be a good corporate citizen in the places we call home. Many sponsorships are through the Wisconsin Energy Foundation, which is funded by stockholders, not customers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Be ready to beat heat

Stay cool and stay safe when temperatures soar for extended periods of time:
  • Drink fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate. 
  • Wear lightweight and breathable clothing. 
  • Check on friends and neighbors who don’t have air conditioning, especially if they are older. 
  • No air conditioning? Go to basement, schools, libraries or shopping malls to escape the heat. 
  • Avoid working outdoors if possible and take frequent breaks if you must be outside. 
  • Wear sunscreen if going outdoors. 
  • Take a cool shower or bath after working outside or if you feel overheated. 
  • Eat small meals more often to ensure you are getting proper nutrition. 
  • Call 911 if you or someone shows signs of heat stroke and move to a cool place. 
  • Read the Red Cross heat wave preparedness checklist.

Be prepared in case you lose power during hot weather:
  • Have a charged cell phone with you or stay near a hard-wired phone (not cordless). 
  • Have emergency contacts handy, including our power outage number  –  800-662-4797. 
  • Have someone check on you, especially if you are older or have a medical condition. 
  • Consider backup power supply or have a cool place to go when needed. 
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. 
  • Follow Food and Drug Administration guidelines for food safety.

Use these energy-saving tips during hot weather:
  • Increase your thermostat setting. When at home, set it a few degrees higher. When leaving, move the setting even higher -- about 80 degrees. However, if you are older or sensitive to heat, set the thermostat to a comfortable level to avoid heat-related illness. 
  • Turn off any lights not needed. 
  • Avoid using heat-producing appliances during the hottest times of day. 
  • Use a microwave instead of oven – or avoid cooking altogether. 
  • Use fans – even if you have air conditioning – to help circulate the air. 
  • Cool only rooms in use. Close unused rooms. 
  • Close blinds, shades and drapes on sunny side to keep house cooler.
  • Get more energy-saving tips.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Flashback Friday: Handwritten bills

Had you been a customer of one of our predecessor companies, The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co., back around 1900, you would have received a bill in the mail that featured handwritten data and separate pricing for incandescent lamps, motors and arc lamps (used mostly for street lights).

Incandescent lighting at that time was priced at 12 cents per kilowatt-hour -- only about 2 cents less than it is today, more than a century later. Back then, customers also could receive discounts for higher usage and prompt payment.

Today, many of our customers receive no bill in the mail at all. Instead, they receive and pay their bills online. Not yet paying your bill online? Find information about online bill payment on our website.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bricks being placed at memorial

Our brick at the replica Wisconsin pillar of the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., is now in place on the former coal dock near our Port Washington Generating Station. The Port Washington pillar will be accessible to the public in September. Meanwhile, workers continue to add bricks to the site.

Bricks are still available for purchase for a short time by calling 262-238-7741. You also can visit the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight website where you will find a link to the brick sales. Prices start at $50. Act quickly to order a brick with your family's name or the name of a veteran you want to honor.

Last November, veterans from Stars and Stripes Honor Flight attended the dedication of the Pillar of Honor at the new Coal Dock Park as a tribute to all Wisconsin veterans who fought in that great war. We sponsored the dedication.

Wisconsin Energy has been a longtime partner of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, helping sponsor flights to Washington, D.C., to take WWII veterans to see their memorial and other historic sights. Wisconsin Energy also sponsored the Field of Honor event held last August at Miller Park.

Employees ensure safety at accident scene

While on their way to work, two of our employees – John Feider, senior operations supervisor, and Erich Wuestenhagen, senior projects supervisor – worked together to secure the scene of a dangerous accident and assure the safety of people caught up in the event.

At approximately 7 a.m., June 28, a truck hauling a poured concrete bridge span more than 100 feet long cut a corner too close turning south onto Hwy. 100 in Greenfield, Wis., off of the exit ramp from eastbound I-94, snapping a power pole and causing energized wires to sag perilously close to the rush hour traffic on the busy thoroughfare below.

Erich Wuestenhagen (left) and John Feider.
Feider witnessed the accident and jumped immediately into action to keep people away from the live power lines. He safely parked his car, called 911, donned his vest and hard hat, and started directing traffic. “I stopped as many people as I could,” said Feider, an 11-year employee with the company.

When a semi-truck contacted the energized wires, Feider ordered the driver to stay in the truck until the lines could be de-energized. He also stopped a county bus that was attempting to drive underneath the wires.

About this time, Wuestenhagen exited onto Hwy. 100 from the east, saw Feider trying to manage the situation, safely parked his car, ran up to Feider and asked what he could do to help. “The first thing I asked was ‘are we safe?’,” said Wuestenhagen. Together, they identified the hazards to themselves and to the public and formulated a plan to make the situation as safe as possible.

“Our biggest concerns were our own safety and how do we keep everyone else safe,” said Wuestenhagen, who’s been with the company approximately seven years. Feider started directing traffic going from south to north and Wuestenhagen took the opposite lane of traffic.

About that time, the energized lines arced three times between the top of the semi and its front left tire. The arcing, smoke and small fire scared the people in the bus. They panicked and started rushing to get off of the bus. Unable to stop them, Feider and Wuestenhagen guided them to a safe place away from the traffic and the downed lines.

Police and sheriff’s deputies arrived to take charge after approximately 10 minutes. Feider explained what had happened, and he and Wuestenhagen departed the scene.

Brian Dobberke, director of customer field operations: “John and Erich did themselves and the company proud today. Their prompt and decisive actions likely prevented some people from being injured or killed. It was an absolutely outstanding response to a dangerous situation.”

Monday, July 1, 2013

Climate change plan impact hard to determine

President Obama’s climate change plan announced June 25 directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholders to establish greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for both new and existing power plants. Implementation of the announced new rule for existing power plants is not expected to occur for several years.

The electric power industry has been a leader in reducing emissions over the last two decades, including GHG emissions in recent years.

Electric power sector emission reductions are due largely to fuel switching from coal to natural gas; slower economic growth; record levels of renewable energy generation (e.g., hydro, wind and solar photovoltaic); and increased energy efficiency by consumers.

Our company has demonstrated a dramatic change in environmental performance. From 2000 to 2013, our power plant capacity is up 50 percent, while emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate matter are down by 80 percent.

We will not be able to estimate the impact of a new rule regarding existing plants until the details of the President’s proposal are fully developed.

We maintain our plants to retain efficiency:
  • For example, the new coal-fueled units at Oak Creek Power Plant are among the most efficient in the U.S. 
  • Even our older units at Oak Creek are in the top 10 percent in efficiency among coal plants in the Midwest. As a result, they are emitting less carbon dioxide per unit of energy because of their efficiency. These units should be among the least impacted by a carbon dioxide rule, which should be good news for our customers.

Any rule regarding existing plants should be based on commercially available, cost-effective technologies. The new rule needs to take into account the potential impact it would have on customer rates. As a leader on reducing emissions, we also believe any new rule should give credit for early actions, such as repowering of Port Washington Generating Station from coal to natural gas, our plan to convert Valley Power Plant from coal to natural gas and our significant investment in renewables – two of the state’s largest wind farms and a biomass plant.

We Energies President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gale Klappa discussed the issue when he appeared on UpFront with Mike Gousha.