Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Employees to assist with power restoration in Puerto Rico

Employees from We Energies and our sister company, Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), soon will deploy to Puerto Rico to assist with the power restoration mission following Hurricane Maria.

About 35 We Energies employees and 25 WPS workers will depart the second week of January for an estimated four- to six-week work assignment in the San Juan area. They’ll join thousands of other power restoration workers from other U.S. energy companies answering Puerto Rico’s need for assistance.
Trucks have been loaded up for the trip to Puerto Rico.
An estimated 3.5 million Puerto Ricans were left in the dark after Hurricane Maria made a direct hit on the island in September. Three months later, an estimated 40-50 percent of residents still don’t have electricity.

Prior to our crews’ departure, trucks and equipment are being delivered to a port in Jacksonville, Florida, where they will be loaded onto a barge bound for Puerto Rico. The exact date of our crews’ departure is pending, but we’re anticipating they’ll fly out of Milwaukee on Jan. 10 or 11. We’ll post updates as their journey unfolds.

Learn more about the coordinated effort

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Scouting is a tradition at We Energies

Since 1954, We Energies has hosted the annual Merit Badge Clinic for Boy Scouts. This year’s event took place on Saturday, Dec. 9, in the We Energies Public Service Building Auditorium. The clinic brought together approximately 20 We Energies volunteers to help nearly 70 Boy Scouts ages 12 to 17 earn electricity merit badges.

We Energies also welcomed the Troops of St. George as special guests to observe the clinic.

Earning the merit badge involves taking a written test on electrical safety and terms, and demonstrating knowledge of practical skills. The Scouts study information on electricity and conduct safety audits of their homes before the clinic. They also wire circuits with lights or buzzers or build electric motors as part of independent projects. The clinic brings in energy experts to coach them the rest of the way.

We Energies employee Ted Sniegowski has volunteered at the event for over a decade and served as chairperson the past seven years. He is thankful for all the volunteers who have kept this important tradition of service alive and well. “For 64 years, We Energies volunteers have helped hundreds if not thousands of Scouts earn this coveted merit badge,” he said.

Those sentiments are echoed by Andrew Hardin with the Three Harbors Council, Boy Scouts of America based out of Milwaukee. “Since 1954, thousands of Scouts have learned the impact that electricity has on their everyday lives from experts at We Energies. This merit badge clinic has such a long history that fathers who attended the clinic as Boy Scouts in years past are now taking their Scout-age sons to the same clinic. Thanks to We Energies staff and retirees who volunteer to put on a successful event for the Boy Scouts!”

Certainly technology has changed since the clinic began in 1954, but its basis remains the same. Some families have had three generations of Scouts attend the clinic. Retired employees return to volunteer and keep the tradition going. A few volunteers have even helped at the clinic for more than 40 consecutive years.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Why we ask you to keep your meters and vents clear of ice and snow

When the temperature drops below freezing, we ask you to keep your electric and natural gas meter as well as furnace vents clear of snow and ice.

Heavy snow or falling icicles can cause damage to your meter, and it can block your intake and exhaust vents, putting you in danger. We ask you to check your meters and vents for your own safety.

Pressure caused by snow or ice can damage piping and cause a natural gas meter to leak. A leak is dangerous and can interrupt service to you and your neighbors.

While built to withstand most weather conditions, meters can be damaged if ice and snow become frozen to them. This not only causes safety issues but also leads to more frequent and costly replacements.

In case of an emergency, our technician may need access to your natural gas or electric meter. By always keeping it clear, you’re keeping yourself and your community safe.

When you check your meters also check your furnace intake and exhaust vents to keep them clear of snow and ice as well. Keeping vents clear prevents build up of carbon monoxide inside homes and buildings. A blocked vent also can affect your furnace, which may not run properly and may not operate at all when the intake or exhaust vent is blocked.

Snow removal tips
  • Be aware of your meter’s location when using a snow thrower or plow
  • Never shovel snow against or on top of your meter or a vent
  • Use a broom or your hands to remove snow and ice from the meter rather than a shovel, salt or ice-melting chemical
  • Never kick your meter to break up snow and ice
  • Protect your meter from melting ice dripping from overhead
  • If you think you smell natural gas, move to a safe distance away and call us at 800-261-5325

Monday, December 11, 2017

We Energies employee rescues neighbors from house fire

On the night of Saturday, Dec. 2, We Energies employee Chris Burbey was driving home from a call in Racine. As a natural gas fitter, Burbey works with piping and appliances, ensuring the safety of customers’ homes and communities. He was not expecting any more work that night – much less a rescue operation.

As Burbey turned the corner to his subdivision, he noticed a fire in his neighbor’s backyard. It looked small, possibly contained. But to him, the risk was clear.

Chris Burbey (left) with Patty, Jamie (daughter) and Brett Filkins.
“I made a quick decision. That’s not a bonfire, that’s a house fire,” Burbey said.

He pulled over the car and jumped into action. With his company wrench and fire extinguisher in hand, he ran to shut off the flow of natural gas at the meter. He then pounded on the front door.

“Your house is on fire,” he shouted. “This is your neighbor and also the gas company. Get out!”

The residents, Brett and Patty Filkins, were asleep and unaware of the fire, which had begun at their natural gas grill and was crawling up the back of their house. When Burbey’s shouts woke them, the flames had just reached their bedroom deck.

Once they had safely left the house, Patty called 911 and Brett helped Burbey extinguish the fire. After the danger had passed, Burbey stayed with the couple until 2 a.m. to help in any way he could – speaking with the fire department, checking the furnace and water heater, and giving moral support.

“It was a traumatic event, and he went above and beyond to help us,” Patty said. “Without him, my husband and I might not be here today.”

Earlier that night, the Filkinses had cooked a pizza on the grill and accidentally left the burner on low. This small flame could have become a much more serious blaze. Investigating the scene, firefighters reported that the fire only remained outside the house due to the second pane on the kitchen window – a pane close to breaking when Burbey arrived.

“The stars and moon all aligned. It could have been a very different outcome,” Burbey said.

His quick thinking, skill and bold action made all the difference to the Filkinses. He hopes others can learn from the incident and make sure their homes and families are safe.

“Double-check the burner position,” he said. “We’re all human, and it’s easy to overlook when you’re getting pulled from all directions.”

Visit our website for more information on natural gas safety. If you smell natural gas or have a natural gas emergency, leave the building immediately and call our 24/7 emergency line at 800-261-5325 from another location.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Safety is main concern after hot air balloon becomes entangled in power lines

Early on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 3, a hot air balloon came in contact with power lines in Appleton. Riders in the basket of the balloon stayed put until We Energies arrived on the scene to de-energize the wires.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. The situation, however, was quite dangerous. “This is probably the oddest I’ve seen because there were people involved,” said employee Jeff Ortscheid. He’s pulled everything from trampolines to metal shed roofs from power lines, but the nervous passengers in the basket made this a trickier situation.

When Ortscheid got the call, his first thought and focus was getting people out safe. He, like nearly all electric utility troubleshooters, has responded to car/pole accidents where the lines remain energized, so he first de-energized the line, cutting power to four nearby customers so that the passengers could exit the balloon safely. Once the passengers were safe, the balloon itself was able to be removed from the power lines.

“It was heavy!” he said, noting that hot air balloons have lots of ropes and lines that make a downed balloon harder to maneuver. He waited for a co-worker to arrive at the scene before taking the balloon down. “We were glad to just get everyone in the clear.”

The passengers did the right thing by staying in the basket until help arrived. Their story is a good reminder of how dangerous an energized line can be, and how to react safely when a vehicle, be it a car or a hot air balloon, comes into contact with energized equipment.

If your vehicle contacts a power line, stay inside until rescue workers say it is safe to leave. If you must leave your vehicle because of fire or other danger, jump away from the vehicle so that you do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Land with your feet together and shuffle away.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

We Energies sponsors annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest

On Saturday, Dec. 2, students gathered at the We Energies Public Service Building to give inspiring speeches to family, friends, teachers and a panel of judges. This year marks the third decade that We Energies has sponsored the speech contest. Company employees are happy to assist, with many volunteering year after year. This year these employee volunteers included Freddie Keith, Michelle Waters, Mekisha Linton, Marina Sanchez, Monique Jones and Karen Ryan.

K-2 finalists.
This year’s theme, “Take a stand for truth and justice,” comes from a sermon Dr. King preached in Montgomery, Alabama, on Nov. 6, 1956, just seven days before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Alabama’s bus segregation laws. Dr. King stated,

 “… dare to take a stand for justice. Honesty impels me to admit that such a stand will require willingness to suffer and sacrifice. So don’t despair if you are condemned and persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Whenever you take a stand for truth and justice, you are liable to scorn. Often you will be called an impractical idealist or a dangerous radical. Sometimes it might mean going to jail.”

Students from Milwaukee public, private, charter and home schools embraced this theme in the writing and delivery of their four-minute speeches.

Grade 11-12 finalists.
Finalists of Saturday’s speech contest are listed below. All first-place winners will give their speech at the citywide celebration of Dr. King’s life and legacy to be held Jan. 14, 2018, at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. art and writing contests also will be honored at the Jan. 14 event.

Grade K-2
1st place – Zadayne Miller, Milwaukee Parkside School of the Arts
2nd place – Josiah Franklin, Elm Creative Arts Elementary School
3rd place – Inezmari Chico, Curtin Leadership Academy

Grade 3-4
1st place – Amir Johnikin, Elm Creative Arts Elementary School
2nd place – Benji Johnston, Eastbrook Academy
3rd place – Salma Lewis, Golda Meir Lower Campus

Grade 5-6
1st place – Chloe Reader, Alcott School
2nd place – Katelen Pickens, Emerson School
3rd place – Kaylie Deluna, Victory Elementary School

Grade 7-8
1st place – Amillia Bell, Golda Meir Upper Campus
2nd place – Terynn Erby-Walker, Golda Meir Lower Campus
3rd place – Demi Figueroa, Curtin Leadership Academy

Grade 9-10
1st place – Ameen Atta, Salam High School
2nd place – Akili Pleas-Carnie, Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School
3rd place – Marvell Reed, Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education

Grade 11-12
1st place – Ariana Cawthorn, Eastbrook Academy
2nd place – Daniel Montalvo, Reagan International Baccalaureate High School 
3rd place – Biluge Ntabala, Milwaukee High School of the Arts

Thursday, November 30, 2017

We Energies named America's best at keeping lights on

We Energies representatives at PA Consulting's event, recognizing excellence in electric reliability.

We are proud to report that we've received one of our industry's top honors -- the ReliabilityOne National Reliability Award. Our president, Kevin Fletcher, accepted the award from PA Consulting Group at a ceremony in New Orleans Nov. 29.

"We're honored to be named the most reliable utility in America," said Fletcher. "This national award is a testament to the skill and professionalism of our employees who dedicate themselves to outstanding customer care every day."

This is the third time we've been honored as the most reliable utility in America following awards in 2004 and 2013.

Besides the National Award, we also received the Award for Outstanding Reliability Performance in the Midwest. This is the seventh year in a row we've received top honors in our region.

We have made significant investments in recent years to strengthen the reliability of its network by rebuilding hundreds of miles of electric distribution lines and replacing thousands of poles and transformers. These investments renew and modernize delivery networks, reduce operating costs and improve energy efficiency, all of which will strengthen our position as a reliable electric service provider.

All companies operating electric delivery networks in North America are eligible for the ReliabilityOne Award. The selection is based primarily on statistics that measure the frequency and duration of customer outages. After initial recipients are identified, each candidate undergoes a rigorous on-site certification process. Each year, PA Consulting names six regional award winners and one national winner.

PA Consulting also honored one of our veteran employees, Principal Engineer Val Werner, with an Outstanding Personal Achievement Award.

"Val is a true leader in electric reliability and outage data reporting," said Fletcher. "He has made outstanding contributions to We Energies and the industry. We congratulate him on this award."

Val Werner's career

Werner honored for lifetime achievement

As a child, Val Werner was always tinkering with things. He loved building models and later graduated to electronics kits from Radio Shack.

“I liked seeing how things worked,” said the We Energies employee. “I collected old TVs and would break them down to see how they were built.”

It’s no surprise he became an electrical engineer, but it is surprising to learn that wasn’t his first educational pursuit.

“I have a degree in art history,” Werner explained. “I earned it during my time in the Air Force.”

During his military career, Werner spent time in Europe and had the opportunity to pursue his passion for art. He traveled to world-famous museums and participated in condensed educational programs. Not only did he earn his degree, but he also was named “Outstanding Airman of the Year” by U.S. Armed Forces Europe while serving overseas.

Now, Werner has achieved another national award, this time for his engineering expertise. Werner received an Outstanding Personal Achievement Award at PA Consulting’s ReliabilityOne™ Awards on Nov. 29. Kevin Fletcher, president of We Energies, presented him with the honor.

“Val is a true leader in electric reliability and outage data reporting,” said Fletcher. “He has made outstanding contributions to We Energies and the industry. We congratulate him on this significant award.”

Werner began working at We Energies in 1990, the same year he received his degree in electrical engineering from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is a founding member of the company’s reliability engineering team. He has held key roles in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and co-authored numerous research reports. Annually, his We Energies Electric Distribution Reliability report keeps close track of the company’s outage statistics. 

“I like focusing on reliability. There are new challenges every year – it never gets stagnant,” said Werner. “And there’s always new technology being developed which can help us resolve outages more quickly for our customers. Everyone I have worked with over the years has been passionate and professional.” 

Werner calls his career rewarding, but award-winning? “I was surprised. It’s very humbling,” he said. “I certainly didn’t expect it.”

Werner with achievement award.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Don’t let your heating budget go up in smoke

It’s fun to cozy up by the fireplace now that temperatures are dropping, but the crackle and flames can do more than send smoke up the chimney – they can take your heating budget along with it. That’s because traditional, open-hearth fireplaces draw air from inside your home, making your furnace work overtime to replace it.

Here are five tips for more cost-effective comfort:

  • Turn your thermostat down to 55 F when using your fireplace.
  • Open a nearby window approximately 1 inch so the fireplace can draw cooler air from outside instead of warm air from inside your home.
  • Install snug-fitting, well-sealed glass doors to limit the amount of room air that’s drawn in.
  • Consider installing an energy-efficient fireplace insert, which can keep more heat in your home.
  •  Close the flue damper when your fireplace isn’t in use to keep warm air inside.

Find more energy-saving heating tips online.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Entertain efficiently this holiday season

As the holidays roll around, you may be opening your doors more often to your family and friends. Don’t let the winter chill creep in behind them. Use these tips to help keep your home warm and inviting all season long while boosting your energy efficiency.

Keep out cold air
According to the Edison Electric Institute, air leaks can account for 25 to 40 percent of the energy used for heating in a typical home. You can easily reduce this heat loss by adding insulation to your windows and weatherstripping to the cracks around your windows and doors. Both plastic film insulation kits and weatherstripping are inexpensive and available at hardware, home improvement and big-box stores.

Plan before you cook
Last-minute dinner prep isn’t just stressful; it can be inefficient, too. You don’t want to leave an empty pan heating while you finish chopping the last of the onions, and a frozen turkey can tax your oven for additional hours. Make sure to prepare ingredients before they are needed and think about ways to optimize your cooking. If you’re making a single dish, consider alternatives to the oven, such as a toaster oven, slow cooker or microwave.

Know your equipment 
Pay attention to your oven and stove top’s capabilities – they could save you some energy. If your oven has a convection feature, use it to reduce the cooking time and heat required. Check a dish’s progress with the oven light instead of opening the door and losing heat. On an electric range, match pans to burners of the correct size. According to the Department of Energy, a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner will waste more than 40 percent of the energy expended.

Automate your cleanup
After the guests have said their goodbyes and you find yourself with a mountain of dishes, don’t resign yourself to an evening in front of the sink. Dishwashers save energy and water when compared to hand washing. You can improve their efficiency further by turning off the heated drying cycle, opening the door and allowing dishes to air dry.

More ways to save money on your energy bill

Thursday, November 16, 2017

We Energies celebrates G.I.R.L.S

At We Energies, we believe in building strong communities, and one of the ways we do that is by supporting organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee that are devoted to serving our community’s children and teens.

We were one of many sponsors for the Boys & Girls Clubs’ fourth annual Celebrating G.I.R.L.S  (Growing Inspirational & Responsible Leaders) event held at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee on Nov. 9. The night highlighted many of the programs offered to young girls at 50 locations around Greater Milwaukee. From sports and recreation activities to health and wellness, career development, character and leadership, education and the arts, all programs were represented by the very girls who benefit from them every day.

Local Affairs Manager 
Jennifer Bognar-Zierer, 
We Energies, addressed 
attendees at the Boys & Girls 
Clubs' event at the Italian 
Community Center.
One program entertained the crowd with a lively dance to show the spirit of the children who participate at Boys & Girls Clubs. The Davis Club Dance Team, along with their instructor Cedric Gardner, shared with the crowd how members learn dance techniques of various genres and rehearse for live performances. 

This summer, they took second place in their division at the Monsters of Hip Hop Unleashed national competition in Los Angeles. They gained national attention when Gardner was honored as one of eight teachers across the nation in Old Navy’s ONWard! Campaign, and co-wrote, choreographed and performed a song in collaboration with singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams and his I Am Other multimedia collective. The team and Gardner also were featured in an Old Navy commercial, which led them to an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

We have taken a special interest in supporting children’s programming through Boys & Girls Clubs and we strive to empower the next generation of leaders. We believe in creating more opportunities for our local girls and boys to realize their potential. To accomplish that goal, the We Energies Foundation offered to match all donations of $100 or more made at the event up to $25,000. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New holiday light display will be merrier, brighter and more interactive

Whether you make the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival an annual part of your yuletide traditions or plan to finally check it off your celebratory bucket list, the display debuting Thursday, Nov. 16, in Zeidler Union Square and running nightly through Jan. 1 is ready to provide you with a completely new and interactive visual experience.
Displays will be lit nightly starting Nov. 16 through early January.
Titled “Downtown’s Yule Lounge,” the display at 4th and Michigan will shine brighter than ever with more than 37,000 LED lights. From wrapped trees lining the park and a larger-than-life living room setting to a giant picture frame and walk-through ornament, the entire 1.2-acre area will come alive at night and provide multiple photo ops for families and friends.

Located adjacent to the We Energies offices along Michigan and Everett streets, the Zeidler Union Square display is sponsored by the We Energies Foundation, which has been a proud sponsor of the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival since it began 19 years ago. The display, along with those in Cathedral Square Park and Pere Marquette Park and along downtown streets, will be part of the city’s lighting festivities on Nov. 16, beginning with the City Hall tree lighting at 5:29 p.m. followed by the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival Kick-Off Extravaganza at 6:30 p.m. in Pere Marquette Park. The event will include music and performances, fireworks and, of course, an appearance by Santa Claus.

Tunnels and benches allow visitors to interact with the displays.
Visit the Milwaukee Downtown website for full details.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Honoring and valuing the military this Veterans Day – and every day

We join others across the United States in celebrating Veterans Day this Saturday and extend our gratitude to the men and women who have served our nation as part of the U.S. armed forces.

We’re also proud of the ways our employees and the We Energies Foundation support programs for veterans (including the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, Fisher House Wisconsin and most recently the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative through Ks for a Cause donations totaling more than $17,000) – as well as the number of employees who personally have served or are currently active military members.

“In my role in Power Generation, we recruit a number of new supervisors and have drawn quite a few from the military,” said Joe Griffin, manager – power generation support, who spent eight years as an MP in the Marines in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Veteran and We Energies employee, Joe Griffin (kneeling, far right)
 with his unit in Liberia.
He added that veterans work in a number of departments throughout We Energies, so much so that parent company WEC Energy Group will launch a business resource group for employees in early 2018. Its mission: to provide support, networking and career development opportunities that increase the engagement and retention of employees who are veterans, are currently serving in the National Guard or Reserves, or are related to someone in either category.

“The military folks we’ve recruited have done well here,” Griffin said, explaining that it’s often an easier career transition, given the nature of the work and the company’s culture. For example, Navy veterans who worked with boilers and turbines on ships have experience and knowledge in electric power generation. Beyond that, the punctuality, integrity, work ethic, and experience with rules and regulations that military members are known for are valued qualities.

To actively recruit veterans and military members, we:

  • Work with Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois for assistance with job fairs and other outreach efforts.
  • Have contracts with a number of military recruitment firms. 
We’re also committed to supporting the development of veteran-owned businesses, and in 2016, were proud to receive an award from the National Association of Minority Contractors – Wisconsin Chapter for our supplier diversity initiative.

Interested in learning more about a career with We Energies? Whether you’re active military, a veteran or a civilian, you can find a career with a future.

And for those who have served – thank you.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Love, laughs and tradition: a Cookie Book contributor’s favorite ingredients

A trip to Mila’s European Bakery in Thiensville, Wisconsin, is sensory overload. From a dazzling display of colorful cakes to the enticing aroma of freshly baked bread, a visit here will undoubtedly tempt your taste buds. The folks at Mila’s are usually tight-lipped about their recipes, but they’re sharing two of their favorites in this year’s Cookie Book.

Mila’s was established in 1981 by Mark and Mila Kofman. They moved here from Russia with two small children in the late ’70s in search of the American dream. Today, her daughter Anna Bakalinsky carries on the baking tradition while expanding the brand with her marketing expertise. Mila’s products can be found in grocery stores across southeast Wisconsin. Now, you can replicate two of their recipes: Nutty Cherry Delights and Mila’s Kisses.
Mila's Kisses Cookies and Nutty Cherry Delight Cookies
can both be found in this year's We Energies Cookie Book

Both Mila and Anna have been long-time fans of our Cookie Book, waiting in line every year to get the latest edition. Anna always wondered, “What if we were in there?”

As recipes for this year’s Wisconsin products edition were researched, Mila’s Bakery seemed a perfect fit. ”When I got the call, I was just extremely happy and very honored,” Bakalinsky said.

Deciding which recipes to submit was difficult. The other challenge? “All of our recipes are in 50 pounds of flour and 50 pounds of this, 50 pounds of that,” she said. “When you mathematically convert it to cups and ounces and teaspoons, it doesn’t always work.” She and her team scaled down the recipes for home baking.

“Baking is a very difficult job, and running a business is difficult. You need a good staff, good support and a good foundation. This is what we have at Mila’s” Bakalinsky said. Clearly, the hard work pays off; Mila’s European Bakery was named Business of the Year 2017 by the Mequon Thiensville Chamber of Commerce.

Bakalinsky has some advice for novice – or nervous – bakers who are baking at home. “Baking is an art form that’s different for all. Try the recipe and it’s OK to improvise with a few ingredients – a dash of this and a pinch of that. However, at the Mila’s facility, precision of measurement needs to be exact. From my house to yours, let the cookie baking begin with love, laughs and tradition.”

And if you’re decidedly not a baker, Mila’s will be selling both Nutty Cherry Delights and Mila’s Kisses at their Thiensville store this holiday season.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cookies for breakfast? Yes, please!

Who says you can’t eat cookies for breakfast? For Kyle Cherek, it’s fairly common. The host of the Emmy award-winning TV series Wisconsin Foodie travels the state for video shoots, often leaving at the crack of dawn.

“When we film Wisconsin Foodie, it’s often a 5 a.m. call time. You’re up early and the truth is you want something portable and sweet.” Cherek said.

Hence, the birth of Cherek’s “On- the-Road Cowboy Cookies,” which are featured in our 2017 Cookie Book. “It’s a traveling meal!”

Kyle Cherek teams up with Tom La Pierre of MATC's Pastry Arts program.
Follow along in the video below as they make Kyle's On-the-Road Cowboy Cookies.
Not only did Cherek contribute his recipe, but he also was a valuable resource for this year’s book, which celebrates Wisconsin products and provides facts about our state’s agriculture. Cherek shared his knowledge of local farmers and food enthusiasts who would be willing to contribute their own cookie recipes.

He’s excited about the theme, which he calls “heartfelt and retro.” He says it’s shining a light on how people used to bake — with regional ingredients and recipes they grew up with. The We Energies Cookie Book definitely has a place in that historical narrative.

“A book like this is its own time capsule of what we cherish right now, what ingredients are available and what the culture says is yummy. We Energies is really creating these great yearbooks of Wisconsin cuisine.”

Cherek knows lots of facts about food, culture and cooking tradition. “The drop cookie,” he explained, one that is dropped onto the pan rather than cut out in a specific shape, “is a legitimate American invention. It’s jazz, it’s baseball, it’s landing somebody on the moon. We gave it to the world. And when you make a drop cookie, you put in your own little twist.”

One way that he makes the recipe truly his own is by making and sharing the batch of cookies with his family: his wife Nada and their two children. “Honestly, the kids are the workforce,” he said.

The other element that’s specific to Cherek and his family? The healthy ingredients, which he admits he “snuck in” unbeknownst to his kids. His version of the Cowboy Cookie includes ingredients like nuts, flax, coconut, whole-wheat flour and real vanilla.

All these ingredients — and a few traditional ones such as butter, flour and chocolate chips — were set out when Cherek teamed up with Tom La Pierre, department coordinator of MATC’s Pastry Arts program, to make a batch of On-the-Road Cowboy Cookies. They sifted and mixed, then dropped and baked this sweet treat. Even in MATC’s fully equipped teaching kitchen, much of the prep and setup was familiar to Cherek, who favors cooking at home to feeling like a professional chef. “I don’t look good in white,” he joked. “And I feel self-conscious wearing a toque,” more commonly called a chef’s hat.

For Cherek, family and friends are clearly a necessary ingredient to any cooking project. His greatest cookie advice is simple. “Make cookies! Make cookies with people you know and you love,” he said. “And then share them. Cookies are meant to be shared.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Find out why this year’s Cookie Book is 'the bee’s knees'

Cows often come to mind as the animal that produces Wisconsin’s most famous product, but the Dairy State’s honey bees are just as prolific. Wisconsin bees produce more than 3 million pounds of honey annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some of that production is happening at the Mequon Nature Preserve in Ozaukee County. The preserve’s Bee Club maintains more than 50 hives on the property. All told, the club’s 60 members (including one commercial producer) have gathered 340,000 pounds of honey this year alone. So what do you do with all that honey? Bake cookies!

The Bee Club contributed the Honey Cookie recipe for this year’s Cookie Book, the Wisconsin Products edition. Executive Director of the Mequon Nature Preserve Kristin Gies describes the Honey Cookie as a sweet treat that’s great to make with kids. “Honey has not often been considered a crop of Wisconsin, but it could be,” said Gies. “We are now growing in that industry.”

“Bees are the only insect that produces some kind of edible food for humans,” said Donna Baldwin-Haut, another Bee Club member. “They are very productive and important to our environment. They pollinate so many of our food sources, and it’s important we keep them going. We’re proud to contribute to that as beekeepers.”

Bee Club members wear protective suits when tending to their hives.

Bee Club member Greg Humer also points out the health benefits of honey. “A teaspoon or tablespoon of honey is better than a vitamin pill!” 

With its healthy properties and natural sweetness, honey is the perfect Wisconsin product to make a tasty holiday cookie with a touch of home-state goodness. Find the club’s Honey Cookie recipe along with 30 others in this year’s Cookie Book. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Heating cost forecast under $500 for 3rd year in a row

After an extremely mild fall, you may finally be turning up your thermostat. We have good news: Our winter heating forecast shows that an average customer could see overall costs under $500 for a third year in a row. That’s nearly $400 less than 10 years ago.

Our winter heating forecast is based on “normal” winter weather, an average of the past 20 years, and the price of natural gas remaining where it is today on the spot market. If both of those factors hold true, we expect the average customer to pay $496 in winter heating costs. That’s less than the cost has been in eight of the past 10 winters and approximately:
  • 22% less than the previous 10-year average
  • 44% less than the most expensive winter (2007-2008)

Looking for ways to save money on your energy bill?
  • Turn your thermostat back 7-10 degrees when you’re asleep or away
  • Seal gaps around windows, doors and siding to keep warm air in 

Schedule a regular tune-up for your furnace to keep equipment running safely and efficiently, saving money in the long run.

More money-saving tips

If you want to manage your energy costs by spreading out charges more evenly over 12 months, you may want to consider our Budget Billing program.

Also, check to see if you qualify for assistance through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP). Visit or call 866-432-8947 to learn more.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

2017 Cookie Book celebrates Wisconsin products

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Our annual Cookie Book is ready for release! The holiday favorite will be handed out at distribution events across our service territory starting Oct. 31. Signature events take place Nov. 4 at Miller Park in Milwaukee and Fox Cities stadium in Appleton. 

This year’s book is a celebration of Wisconsin products: honey, cranberries, cherries, pumpkin, cheese, and of course, milk and butter. The book features 31 recipes provided by bakers, beekeepers, farmers and more. It also includes fun facts about agriculture along with photos of each cookie.

Recipes were sourced from across the state and include Maple Ginger Cookies from B&E’s Trees in Viroqua and a raspberry merengue recipe from O&H Danish Bakery in Racine. Eric Olesen of O&H attributes his recipe, fondly called Aunt Margaret’s Yummies, to his aunt, “a sweet little Danish lady who loved to bake.”

So whether the Cookie Book has been a part of your family’s holiday celebration for generations or this is your first book, pick up a copy at one of our distribution events. A full distribution schedule can be found here.

Milwaukee and Appleton’s signature events on Nov. 4 include hot chocolate, cookies, and photos with Santa’s reindeer, as usual. Please note – distribution at Miller Park is moving to the Sausage Haus this year. Here’s a map showing the new location:

The We Energies Cookie Book is a tradition that dates back to 1928. Company home economists put together the first edition as a goodwill gesture for customers to encourage them to use their appliances.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Historical industrial site getting 21st century makeover, paving way for future job growth

If you’re not familiar with the old Solvay Coke & Gas Co. site, the waterfront parcel on Milwaukee’s southeast side was once bustling with activity, and we’d like to see it return to productive use.

We now own the 46-acre parcel of land stretching from the Kinnickinnic River to East Greenfield Avenue. We purchased the property earlier this year because we’re partly responsible for the EPA-required cleanup of the site, which was occupied by a couple of our predecessor companies as well as other companies prior to Solvay’s ownership.

The Solvay site, as it appeared in the 1930's

The Milwaukee Gas Light Co. (later known as Wisconsin Gas) purchased coal gas from Solvay’s operations. The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. (later known as Wisconsin Electric Power Co.) had electric railroad support facilities on another part of the property. Dating back to the late 1880s, the property has hosted a variety of industrial processes – from coke production, to iron production, to hide tanning and more. The above photo of the property shows a very active scene in 1930s.

Some of the debris left at the site
We’ve made substantial progress in cleaning up the site so it can be redeveloped. This site is uniquely positioned to offer many amenities highly sought by industrial companies. The eastern edge abuts the KK River, offering ready shipping access as well as a Great Lakes port. Railroad tracks run along both the east and west edges of the site, offering access to Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific rail lines. Plus, I-94 is just a few blocks away. It’s an infrastructure trifecta: It’s rare for companies to find three different modes for transporting their raw materials and finished products in one place. In addition, high pressure steam from our recently converted gas-fired Valley Power Station is available along East Greenfield Ave. 

Since purchasing the site, we have: 
Demolition of an old stack

  • Installed fencing to secure the property
  • Razed chimneys and old buildings
  • Removed asbestos and lead paint 
  • Removed 100 tons of trash and construction debris 
  • Recycled 30 tons of tires and conveyor belts 
  • Recycled 96 tons of steel
  • Recycled 2500 tons of asphalt
Next steps include soil sampling and an engineering evaluation to outline soil remediation options. The EPA will review these options, seek public comment and then recommend an action plan. Once we receive a final action plan from the EPA, soil and groundwater cleanup can begin. Our goal is get the site ready for redevelopment, possibly in 2019. We look forward to bringing new life to this historic industrial site by attracting businesses that can create family-supporting jobs that will enhance Milwaukee and Wisconsin. 

Demolition of an old building

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

We Energies sponsors China Lights’ return

For the second year in a row, We Energies is sponsoring China Lights at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners.

This year’s event promises to make the gardens brighter than ever with 50 lantern displays across three quarters of a mile of Boerner’s landscape. These vivid and expertly lit displays depict flowers, figures and animals -- real and mythical. Each handmade lantern was constructed on-site by Chinese artisans. Nearly all of the lanterns are different from those shown last year.

The event offers food and drink as well as vendors selling Chinese crafts and gifts. Additionally, each day features an illumination parade, as well as multiple live performances including musicians, spinning tops, juggling and martial arts demonstrations on stages sponsored by our company.

We believe in building stronger communities by supporting initiatives that promote economic health, arts and culture, education and environment. “We Energies is proud to sponsor China Lights in Southeastern Wisconsin because it is an exciting celebration of art and culture that we know all will enjoy,” said John Zaganczyk, vice president – customer services.

China Lights runs through Oct. 22 from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and is closed to the public on Mondays. Potential visitors can learn more about the event, including information on tickets and parking, at

Friday, October 6, 2017

MPS students get unique chance to pursue line mechanic career

We’ve teamed up with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to develop a first-of-its-kind job training program for students interested in pursuing a career as a line mechanic. The opportunity could open the door for students to work full-time at We Energies upon graduation.

“You are among a select few to get this chance,” veteran troubleshooter Theo Minor told a group of students at Milwaukee’s Alexander Hamilton High School recently. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Initially, the training program is being offered to juniors at Hamilton High School. About 40 students attended an assembly to learn more. Many will follow-up with a field trip to our training center later this month.

Hamilton HS students learn more about new line mechanic work study program.

Those who pursue the program will attend several training sessions throughout the school year. Approximately 8-10 students will then be invited to work at We Energies over the summer. They’ll be assigned to Milwaukee line crews and observe the duties of line mechanics firsthand. 

Students will then continue with training sessions their senior year followed by another season of summer employment. Upon completion, they may be hired as line mechanic apprentices or pursue a different career track at We Energies.

To be considered for the program, students must:
  • Be juniors in 2017/2018 school year
  • Remain on track to graduate in 2019
  • Be punctual and have excellent attendance
  • Actively participate in all program activities
  • Obtain a valid driver’s license by graduation
  • Pass drug/alcohol screenings 

This is the first time we’ve partnered with MPS to offer a program like this. We think it’s a win-win: students will learn valuable skills and potentially find full-time employment after graduation, while our company finds a new way to recruit talented individuals for rewarding careers.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We Energies Foundation sponsors Michigan Street Bublr Bike Station

Frequent visitors to Zeidler Union Square will notice something that might be familiar to them but is brand new to the park – seven Bublr Bikes and a 15-slot docking station. The We Energies Foundation has sponsored the Bublr Bike station in the park on the corner of 4th and West Michigan streets, adjacent to We Energies' downtown Milwaukee offices, where anyone can rent the blue bicycles often seen around town as part of Milwaukee’s bikeshare system. This station is Bublr’s 62nd, which cover the Lakefront to Wauwatosa and UWM to Bayview. Bublr hopes to build more stations in the coming years, including 25 in the next month.

“Sponsoring a Bublr Bike station close to our downtown Milwaukee office supports the We Energies Foundation’s efforts to build strong communities,” said Beth Straka, senior vice president – corporate communications and investor relations, WEC Energy Group, and vice president, We Energies Foundation. “I look forward to using the bikes myself.”

Sally Sheperdson, executive director of Bublr Bikes, echoed Straka’s enthusiasm about the new station. “Bublr Bikes is excited about our newest station in Zeidler Park, made possible through the generosity of the We Energies Foundation. Bublr provides a healthy, inexpensive way to commute to work, zip around town and explore the city. It is a great way to bring the community closer together. And having this station just across the street from Bublr Bikes’ new headquarters in the Grand Avenue Mall building is a bonus!"

More information on Bublr Bikes, including pricing, station locations and details on the mobile app, can be found at

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Energy assistance now available

Customers now can apply for energy assistance for the 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 $26,601 per year or less may qualify, and families of four that earn up to $51,155 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 (first-time applicants only), 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.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Public Service Building draws hundreds of visitors for Doors Open Milwaukee

Visitors view the large marble walls
 and chandelier in our lobby.
The public received a rare glimpse inside our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee this past weekend. The event, which drew nearly 800 visitors, was staffed by employee volunteers.

“Everyone was truly impressed. They thanked us immensely for spending our weekend here with them,” said Jennifer Eisner, manager of Customer Service at We Energies and organizer of the event.

Visitors called the building a hidden treasure in Milwaukee. Built in 1902, the Public Service Building (PSB), located at 231 W. Michigan St., was a central station for The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. a predecessor of We Energies. Milwaukee’s original streetcars operated out of the building. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Feedback from visitors was overwhelmingly positive, according to Eisner. “Visitors told us the building was amazing and thanked us for opening our doors.”

Historic Milwaukee Inc. hosted Doors Open Milwaukee, a celebration of Milwaukee’s art, architecture, culture and history, now in its seventh year. More than 150 buildings are open to the public for two days every September to provide behind-the-scenes tours in Milwaukee’s downtown and surrounding suburbs.

Friday, September 22, 2017

See our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee

Public Service Building was built in 1902.
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 Co., 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.

PSB lobby is neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style.
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 sometimes notice 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.

Stain-glass window depicting
a swarm of bees
 buzzing around a hive.
“We have received positive feedback every year since we started participating in Doors Open Milwaukee," said Jennifer Eisner, our coordinator for the event. “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. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24. Visitors are invited to tour the lobby and auditorium, and also can attend a presentation about the building and company history.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Crews return home after restoring power in Georgia

Our crews are home safe and sound after helping restore power to hurricane victims in Georgia. More than 30 workers embarked south last week and wound up in a rural area about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta. They spent two 16-hour days restoring power to customers that had been without electric service for several days following Hurricane Irma.
Crews work to restore power to hurricane victims in Georgia.
“It was an honor to be part of this major restoration effort,” said Area Manager Mike McNeil, who led the group. “The people we met in Georgia were so appreciative of our efforts. We’re happy we could help them in their time of need.”

One of the more memorable encounters was with members of Liberty Baptist Church in Lula, Georgia. Church members served meals to our crew members and prayed for them. They also thanked them publicly on the church’s Facebook page.

Crews were released to return to Wisconsin after host utility Georgia Power concluded restoration efforts. Crews from our sister company, Wisconsin Public Service, were re-routed to Florida after getting released in Georgia. They continue restoration efforts in a rural area west of St. Augustine.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Crews arrive safely in Georgia

After driving about 800 miles, our crews have arrived safely in the metro Atlanta area where they’ll help Georgia Power restore electricity to hurricane victims. Their accommodations are modest, to put it mildly. They’re staying in bunk trailers at Coolray Field, home of the Atlanta Braves’ AAA team, along with hundreds of other utility workers from across the country. 

Crews are expecting to work double shifts several days in a row, restoring power wherever they’re sent. That means 16 hours working with just 8 hours resting. Initially, they’re working in the Gainesville area, about 60 miles outside of Atlanta. The area in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is rural and hilly. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Crews head south to assist in hurricane response

A caravan of nearly 20 We Energies trucks is headed south to assist with power restoration in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Millions of people remain without power in Florida, Georgia and other neighboring states. Full restoration could take weeks.

34 We Energies employees, from as far north as Iron Mountain, MI to southeast Wisconsin, are headed to the Atlanta area where they’ll assist Georgia Power with recovery efforts. Georgia Power still has hundreds of thousands of customers without power. Our crews may be re-routed to other areas after their work in Georgia is complete.

Crews depart from the Racine Service Center on Sept. 13.

The electric power industry is mounting an industry-wide response to restore power in the region. Our employees are part of an army of more than 50,000 workers from across the U.S. and Canada. Just as we would expect to receive assistance after a major storm, we have answered the call for help. We’ve also released 100 contract employees to help in the restoration effort.