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 homeenergyplus.wi.gov 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 chinalights.org.

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 bublrbikes.org.