Monday, October 31, 2016

Famous names in 2016 Cookie Book

Comedian John McGivern is never short on jokes. “I was the son of an Irish woman who boiled everything!” he likes to kid. But his mom made delicious sugar cookies, and they were the starting point for his “Jelly Sandwich Cookie” recipe in our 2016 We Energies Cookie Book.

McGivern turned to the pros at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s baking and pastry arts program to put a new twist on his mom’s recipe. “It’s a new version of anybody’s sugar cookie,” he said. “It’s a great sugar cookie!”

McGivern’s recipe is among 38 featured in this year’s Cookie Book, titled the “Wisconsin Heritage Edition.” From entertainers to educators to community leaders, customers will recognize many of the recipe contributors. From former Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair’s “Killer Brownies” to Archbishop Jerome Listecki’s “Lemon Shortbread Cookies,” there’s a wide variety of sweet treats to please the palate.

The 2016 We Energies Cookie Book and a listing of more than two dozen distribution events can be found here.

We’re expecting thousands at our signature distribution events at Miller Park in Milwaukee and Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

The We Energies Cookie Book is a company tradition dating back more than 85 years. Older editions of the book have become collector’s items. Check out our archive of more than 50 editions on our website.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Invasive species battle waged at park along Wisconsin-Michigan border

Another battle against invasive species recently took place at Cowboy Lake Park, just west of Iron Mountain, Michigan.

Taking out invasive plants at Cowboy Lake Park.
Students from Kingsford High School’s environmental science class partnered with the Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition (WRISC) to participate in an invasive species control day at Cowboy Lake Park. The students and adult volunteers manually removed buckthorn, exotic honeysuckle, Japanese barberry and other invasive plant species on Oct. 13.

Through our We Energies Mitigation and Enhancement Fund grants, we have supported WRISC’s operations in northeast Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for several years now. WRISC also partners with us on purple loosestrife control along the Menominee River.

In Southeast Wisconsin, we help support a similar initiative called the Southeast Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium (SEWISC).

“Through the We Energies Foundation, we have supported the consortium for several years, providing funding for boots-on-the-ground invasive species management,” said Mike Grisar, principal environmental consultant at We Energies, who was involved with the inception of SEWISC as well as WRISC.

Grisar explained our company’s interest in the war against invasive species as a responsibility attached to being good stewards of the properties in and around its facilities throughout Wisconsin and Michigan.

“Meeting our regulatory requirements is one reason, but this type of work also is part of our larger environmental commitment to our customers and communities we serve,” said Grisar. “We want to be good stewards of the remarkable natural areas associated with our hydroelectric properties as well as many of our other power plants.”

Non-native species problems extend beyond plants. Emerald ash borers, zebra and quagga mussels are some examples. “These species and others can kill native species as well as damage property value of homeowners and businesses,” he said. “For example, the proliferation of zebra and quagga mussels can severely reduce efficiencies of our water intakes and other power plant equipment.”

Grisar also mentioned concerns about certain plants that pose a human threat in terms of skin burns that can be inflicted by contact with wild parsnip, or skin burns, scars and even blindness caused by giant hogweed.

Fortunately, those were not present at Cowboy Lake Park. The students and volunteers at the park targeted the thick and thorny wood invasives, which harm the forest ecosystem by spreading rapidly and growing quickly to overcome their native competitors.

The students also installed their sign for “Adopt-A-Spot,” a program that allows groups to adopt a favorite location – park, trail or other area – and monitor it for invasive species. 

Kingsford High School’s environmental science class with its
Adopt-A-Spot sign at invasive species control day.
Once a group decides to adopt a spot, WRISC conducts a survey of the property to identify invasive species that are present and later provides a workshop to help a group identify these species and to get started on controlling infestations. Groups get a sign for the property to let visitors know who monitors the location. 

Learn more about WRISC and its programs, such as Adopt-A-Spot:
Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition

Learn more about SEWISC and its programs: 

Learn more about We Energies environmental commitment:
We Energies - Environment

Beware of energy vampires!

Energy vampires are devices that suck power, even when they’re not in use. These vampires can boost your electric bill $100 to $200 a year. Here are some easy fixes to frighten them away:

  • Unplug your chargers. Cell phone chargers continue to drain energy, even when disconnected from your phone. Don’t forget to unplug them when they’re not in use. 
  • Use a power strip. Use a power strip to shut off your TV and game console all at once when you’re not using them. Advanced power strips will cut the power to idle electronics so you don’t have to remember to do so. 
  • Check the bathroom. Unplug hair dryers, electric shavers and curling irons when you’re finished using them.
  • Go to sleep. When you go to bed, make sure your electronics do, too. Put your computers in sleep mode or turn them off completely.
  • Upgrade, if you can. Newer, Energy Star appliances are getting smarter and take less energy than their predecessors. Cable boxes used to be some of the deadliest energy vampires, but new models (post 2013) are much more efficient. Check with your cable provider about updating your box.
  • Learn more. Read about energy vampires in your home, how much power they waste and the best ways to ward them off here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Employees support United Way and Project Homeless Connect

Our annual United Way workplace giving campaign is underway, and some employees are showing their support by volunteering for Milwaukee Project Homeless Connect. They joined in a one-day event, funded in part by United Way, which brought multiple resources together to serve people experiencing homelessness.

Left to right: Paul Becherer, Paul Kessler, Hallie Knipple, 
Lisa Bahr, Jared Peccarelli.
Paul Becherer, plant operator at our Valley Power Plant in Milwaukee, was among those who helped guests navigate the services and resources, which included haircuts, health and dental checkups, flu shots and housing information. Becherer worked the overnight shift prior to the event, going home for just an hour of sleep before volunteering on what was scheduled to be his day off.

“We all need to give back to the community so that we can make this a better world to live in,” Becherer said of his decision to volunteer.

One of the guests he helped shared his personal story with Becherer. “Listening to Nathaniel’s story of living on the streets was very humbling, so giving up a little sleep and time was well worth it,” he said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Students explore new heights with careers in energy

Line mechanics with various levels of experience – from a 15-year We Energies veteran to individuals in their first few months of training – gathered at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s (MATC) Mequon campus on Tuesday morning to inspire high school students to learn their trade.

Nick Trudell, a line mechanic with We Energies, is halfway through his four-year apprenticeship. He got his start at MATC and calls his experience there “a good base to grow on.”

Trudell’s dedication to inspiring the next generation of line mechanics speaks to the program’s success. “The training prepares you for different situations,” he said. “Safety is always first, and someone’s always watching.” Trudell recognizes both the risks and the rewards of the work. He recommends the job for anyone who likes to work outside, is determined and understands the importance of safe work habits.

And safety was the top priority as Trudell gave high school students a hands-on experience at MATC. He helped them put on safety harnesses before taking them 65 feet in the air in a bucket truck.

Nearby, current MATC students practiced climbing utility poles. They gave the high school students a quick lesson and let them try it for themselves. The general consensus was that climbing utility poles is a lot harder than it looks, even with proper gear.

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Raymond Allen visited MATC for Careers in Energy Week. He read a proclamation from Governor Scott Walker at a brief ceremony on campus. Trudell also spoke during the ceremony, highlighting his positive experience at both MATC and We Energies.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Careers in Energy Week focuses on job opportunities

This is Careers in Energy Week, a week focused on raising awareness about energy careers available in Wisconsin. 

Technical colleges throughout Wisconsin are providing information and hosting events to promote the many employment opportunities in the energy industry. Companies like ours are working with academic institutions to make sure qualified staffing is available for the many craft, engineering and technical positions needed now and in the future.

According to the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium, Wisconsin's energy, power and control sectors employ more than 100,000 people and generate $38 billion in annual sales. Salaries for Wisconsin technical college energy graduates top the colleges’ self-reported earnings with median annual incomes for graduates in gas utility construction and service at $65,579, followed by $59,504 for utilities engineering technology graduates.

If you or someone you know is interested in working in an industry that provides safe and reliable energy for customers throughout the state, check out the following resources for more information:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Energy assistance now available

Customers now can apply for energy assistance for the upcoming heating season.

Applying for energy assistance has never been easier. Visit the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) website at or call 866-432-8947.

Milwaukee County residents can apply for assistance in person at Community Advocates or United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS). Visit or call 414-270-4653 for more information.

More families may qualify for aid this year due to changes in income eligibility. For example, an individual who earns $26,174 per year or less may qualify, and families of four that earn up to $50,336 per year also may qualify.

WHEAP provides qualified residents with a one-time grant to help pay energy bills. Qualification is based on income levels, not on whether someone is behind on paying their energy bills.

Applicants must provide:
  •  Photo ID for applicant, including name and address
  •  Proof of income for all household members for previous three months
  •  Social Security numbers for everyone in the household
  •  Current energy bill or account number
  •  Phone number of landlord and rent certificate or statement (if applicant is a renter and heat is included in rent or a separate payment is made to the landlord)
WHEAP provides assistance to more than 200,000 Wisconsin families annually.

Customers with questions about their energy bills or payment options should call our payment assistance line at 800-842-4565.