Friday, September 30, 2016

2016 We Energies Cookie Book one step closer to completion

2016 We Energies Cookie Books on the presses.
The 2016 edition of the We Energies Cookie Book has hit another milestone – printing! While the pages can be printed in about 24 hours, it takes approximately two weeks in the bindery for the books to be bound, boxed and ready for distribution.

This year’s book, the Wisconsin Heritage edition, features 38 recipes from special contributors throughout the state – names you may recognize like former Olympian Bonnie Blair, comedian John McGivern and gardening guru Melinda Myers, sharing ideas for cookies that will become family favorites for generations to come.

We’ll be distributing Cookie Books at signature events in Milwaukee and Appleton on Nov. 5. Books also will be available at 25 other distribution events throughout our service area in November. You can find the schedule and archive of past Cookie Books online.

First hydroelectric plant was built in Appleton in 1882

Renewable energy has a long history at We Energies. On Sept. 30, 1882, the first hydroelectric plant opened in Appleton, Wisconsin. The plant was conceptualized by H.J. Rogers, president of the Appleton Paper and Pulp Co. and the Appleton Gas Light Co. (later Appleton Edison Light Co.) -- one of our many predecessors.  
Vulcan Street Plant
Rogers' company built the Vulcan Street plant on the Fox River, which powered the plant's water wheel and provided enough power to generate 12.5 kilowatts that lit 180 lights, powered Rogers' riverside paper mill and lit his home perched on a bluff overlooking the mill. 
Although his spacious home was a Victorian showplace, the hydro plant was little more than a shed. A replica of the plant can be found today on South Oneida Street. 
Back in the day of Appleton's first hydro plant, electric bills actually were "light" bills and calculated based on the number of electric lamps in a home or business. The cost was $1.20 a month per lamp -- about $26 in today's dollars. Quite a luxury at the time.
Today, you can light a 10-watt LED bulb for 5 hours a day at a cost of just 20 cents a month.

Friday, September 23, 2016

‘A day so rich in respect, dignity and camaraderie’: What it’s like to be an Honor Flight guardian

Kevin Harrison, electric distribution controller – electric operations at We Energies, volunteered to be a guardian during the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight on Sept. 17. A retired member of U.S. Special Operations Forces himself, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan as a senior medic from 2005 to 2010, he wrote this summary of the experiences throughout the Honor Flight trip.

Robert Bob Schaefer and Kevin Harrison.
From the moment of our departure, escorted by dual P-40 Warhawk 1940-era airplanes, to the parade through General Mitchell Airport upon our return, the 35th Stars and Stripes Honor Flight was chock-full of thoughtful, well-orchestrated and moving activities. The responsibility of serving as guardian for Robert “Bob” Schaefer, an 85-year-old Korean War Army medic, was not a burden, but an honor. Though he never expressed to me the impact of the journey that day, it was apparent on several occasions that he was awed by the experience.

The monuments Bob most wanted to see were the Korean War Veterans Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, but on this day we saw far more than that. Our stops also included the World War II Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial and the United States Air Force Memorial as we coasted through Washington, D.C., on buses escorted by local police. As we toured all of the memorials, the amount of reverence for these veterans was palpable.

The Changing of the Guard ritual performed by 3rd Infantry Regiment soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was especially impressive in its meticulously coordinated movements. The absolute silence made every movement stand out and added to the chilling effect of the ceremony itself. 

The 88 veterans who participated in the Stars and Stripes 
Honor Flight on Sept. 17 in front of the Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt Memorial. 
Every aspect of the journey was well-considered by the organizers, but their great accomplishment was the reception upon returning to Milwaukee. The airport terminal was packed with people who had come to show support for those who had given so much for their nation. It was overwhelmingly powerful for me as much as it was for Bob.

While I was driving Bob home at the end of the day, he was stunned by how many people had shown up to pay homage to the veterans. “How did they get so many people to show up?” he asked, and I replied, “They just told people that there was an opportunity to thank veterans, and all of these people showed up. That is how much your service still means to us.”

“Well, it was almost too much,” he said.

The journey was especially profound for me, as a veteran myself, looking at Bob make fast friends with the other veterans – the stories shared, the jokes told and, on occasion, the tears shed. As I stood in front of the collected group while they were posing for a group picture, I reflected for a moment on the spirit of service still alive today, and hoped that all veterans could someday be rewarded with a day so rich in respect, dignity and camaraderie.

De oppresso liber,*

Kevin Harrison

* De oppresso liber, often translated as “to free from oppression,” is the motto of the United States Army Special Forces.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Employee describes his We Energies Honor Flight experience

Bryan Davis and Harry Schilling
“I am deeply humbled by my experience on the Honor Flight with Harry,” said Bryan Davis, supervising electric distribution controller – electric operations, one of two We Energies employees serving as guardians on a recent company-sponsored Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. 

The Honor Flight program flies World War II and Korean War veterans, as well as terminally ill veterans from other conflicts, to Washington, D.C., for a day of visiting their memorials.

“Harry” is Harry Schilling, an 88-year-old Korean War veteran who served four years as a Navy aviation mechanic. In spending the day as Schilling’s guardian, Davis learned that he enlisted when he was 18. Davis also discovered that Schilling’s two older brothers lost their lives in combat during World War II.

Davis said his greatest takeaway from the Sept. 17 trip was a deeper appreciation for sacrifice WWII and Korean War veterans made. “It was a time when the sovereignty of our country was being tested to the limit. When these heroes were called to duty, there was a very good chance that they would never return.”

Because Schilling was a Korean War veteran, Davis assumed that the Korean War Memorial would be of greatest interest, but that wasn’t the case.

“Harry wanted to spend most of his time at the World War II Memorial. It was evident that (the loss of his brothers) was heavy on his heart throughout the entire trip,” said Davis, whose grandfathers also served during WWII.

A powerful experience

Davis noted that, for him, the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery was most meaningful. “The last stop at Arlington Cemetery was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Davis said. “This ceremony was extremely powerful and the raw emotion on display from the veterans is something I’ll never forget.”

We Energies has supported the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight since its inception in 2008. In addition to the company sponsoring the cost of the Sept. 17 flight, employees provided handwritten letters, notes and cards thanking the veterans for their service. More than 150 were distributed – along with letters from the veterans’ own family members and friends – during “mail call” on the flight back to Milwaukee.

Davis said he was grateful to be selected as a guardian and to experience the day. “I never served, but I know a lot of people in our company have. This was a chance to serve our veterans and pay my respects.”

We Energies’ other guardian on the flight was Kevin Harrison, electric distribution controller – electric operations. “I hold great esteem for those who have served but especially those who served in World War II and Korea, given the comparisons between warfare then and warfare now,” he said. “It is amazing and humbling to consider what past veterans endured in service to our country.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why we charge a fee for certain types of bill payments

For customer convenience, we offer many ways for customers to pay their energy bills -- online, phone, mail, automatic withdrawal and in person. Some are free and some have processing fees.

Many customers choose to pay with a credit or debit card, and that's one of the payment methods that involves a processing fee, which is $2.95. We often hear from customers who point out that other businesses don't charge for credit or debit card transactions and that we shouldn't either.

Why we charge a fee

Whenever a company accepts credit or debit card payments from customers, there is a cost, typically a percentage of the payment amount that the company must pay to the card company. Most companies just add those costs to their products and services, which are then paid by all customers regardless of how they pay. 
In short, we cannot spread those costs among all customers because state regulators don't allow it. Fairness is the reason. Customers who pay via other methods shouldn't have to help pay the processing fees of others who choose credit or debit card payments. 

The fees go to our payment processor (BillMatrix), card companies, processing banks and banks that issued the cards. We receive no part of the fee. 

How to pay without a fee

Avoiding a fee is easy -- just register for My Account, which allows you to pay online on our secure site. My Account also offers other benefits, including due date reminders, payment history, personalized money-saving tips and more.

My Account information and registration

All payment options

Thursday, September 15, 2016

See our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee

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

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

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

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

“When people first walk in the door, their mouths drop open at the sight of the lobby,” said Tim Brown, We Energies’ coordinator for the event. “We have received positive feedback every year since we started participating in Doors Open Milwaukee. We are happy to show this architectural gem to the community, which would not normally have access to it.”

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

The PSB will open its doors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept. 18. Visitors are invited to tour the lobby and auditorium, and also can attend a presentation about the building and company history.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

We Energies Honor Flight flies this Saturday

We’re proud to again partner with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight (SSHF) for the organization’s 35th mission to Washington, DC. We Energies is sponsoring a flight this Saturday for 88 local WWII and Korean War veterans as they head to our nation’s capital to see their memorials. 

“We’ve supported this special program, the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, since it began in 2008, and we are especially proud to have sponsored this flight,” said Kevin Fletcher, president of We Energies.

24 WWII veterans and 60 Korean War veterans will be on Saturday’s flight, along with four terminally ill Vietnam War veterans. Each veteran will travel with a guardian who will serve as a trained companion during the journey. Two We Energies employees will serve as guardians on the trip, including Kevin Harrison, a former member of U.S. Special Operations Forces who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

“I look forward to the opportunity in front of me,” said Harrison, an electric distribution controller. “I hold great esteem for those who have served, but especially those who served in WWII and Korea, given the comparisons between warfare then, and warfare now. It is amazing and humbling to consider what past veterans endured in service to our country.”

Our employees and their family members wrote letters 
to veterans.
We Energies has supported several Honor Flights. Our employees are again writing letters to veterans who will be on board the flight. Veterans will participate in “mail call” where they receive letters from family, friends, and even strangers. We’ve collected more than 160 letters to be handed out.

“Mail call is one of the most powerful moments of the entire Honor Flight day,” said Karyn Roelke of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “Our veterans can’t stop smiling through their tears as they read the letters. They take the mail home and then read and re-read the letters, over and over again. Recently, we were even told of an Honor Flight veteran who asked to be buried with his mail call letters.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

'Iron women' of We Energies to compete in world championship triathlon

Mary Joy Hubbs surrounded by her fitness class students at We Energies.
For Mary Joy Hubbs, fitness is a way of life. She’s a longtime fitness instructor and teaches classes at our corporate headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. Outside the company gym, she’s an accomplished triathlete as well.

On Sept. 15, she’ll be competing with the world’s best at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico.

“I want to embrace the moment because it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” said Hubbs, who had to qualify to compete in the ITU Age-Group Sprint World Championship where she’ll swim 750 meters in the Caribbean Sea, bike 20K, then run 5K.

Her impressive times at Milwaukee-area triathlons put her in contention for a top-10 finish in her 60-64 age group.

“I’m just ready to go,” said Hubbs. “I really feel ready!”

Chris Wodke competing
for Team USA in Oklahoma.
She’s not the only person from We Energies headed to Cozumel. Chris Wodke, a manager in our Power Generation unit, also is competing in a different event. The veteran marathoner will compete in the aquathlon, running 2.5K, swimming 1K, then running another 2.5K. She qualified at the Aquathlon National Championships in Oklahoma last year to earn her Team USA spot.

“This is my second World Championship race and my third time racing for Team USA,” said Wodke. “I am really proud to wear the US uniform, and it is so fun to talk to the other athletes.” 

As if the aquathlon isn’t enough, Wodke also decided to enter the open age-group sprint triathlon two days before her “official” race.

Good luck, iron women!