Friday, May 10, 2019

Path to renewable energy fairness

Supporting a future that benefits all customers

Renewable energy is an important part of the diversified energy mix that we use to provide safe and reliable electricity to you and all of our customers. In fact, we’ve invested about $1 billion in renewable energy over the past 15 years, including the two largest wind farms in Wisconsin. Beyond our investments, we support customer-owned generation, like solar panels on the roofs of individual homes and businesses.

As the cost of solar has come down in recent years, the popularity of these small solar projects has gone up. Customers put solar panels on their roofs and use the energy produced in their homes and businesses. However, when the sun is not shining or their system is not working, we’re still there to provide power. Customers with solar panels rely on our power lines, our poles and the entire infrastructure that goes into our reliable network. But, because of the way those costs are billed, solar customers do not pay their fair share of the costs.

This means that other customers – customers who can’t afford a solar system, don’t have a suitable place to put one, or simply don’t want one – are paying costs people with solar panels are not.

We are simply looking to make the system fairer for everyone. The modest and reasonable changes we are proposing to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin will allow us to maintain a system that provides reliable service in an environmentally responsible way, while keeping our rates fair and affordable for all customers.

We support customer-owned solar and other power generation — and we support fair rates for all customers. One customer group should not subsidize another, which is why we are proposing that customers with their own generation pay their fair share of the costs for their use of the grid.

Friday, May 3, 2019

First falcon chicks have arrived

Two peregrine falcon eggs hatched overnight at the Oak Creek Power Plant. Check out the fluffy white chicks for yourself on our live feed. The cuteness will continue over the next few days, so make sure to watch all of the cameras closely for more signs of hatching.

In the meantime, check out these close-ups of the first chicks, and cast your vote to name them after Milwaukee sports legends.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Squawk the Vote: Help us name falcon chicks after Milwaukee sports legends

Milwaukee – Milwaukee’s sports legends have been honored with all-star games, MVPs, even the hall of fame – but this is a first. Some past and present Bucks and Brewers players will have a peregrine falcon chick named after them, and you get to pick the winners.

Starting today and running through Friday, May 17, you can vote on your favorite names. From The Beak Freak and The Little O to Rockin’ Robin and Yeli, the top vote-getters will be used to name the falcon chicks born this spring at the We Energies Oak Creek and Valley power plants.

More than a dozen eggs have been laid at our power plants this year, and if all goes well, the first chicks should start hatching in early May. Right now, the proud parents are taking turns incubating the eggs.

Don’t wait. Vote early and often and help your favorite star player get this high-flying honor.

When you’re done voting, you can check out our high-definition webcams at all of the nest sites, streaming 24/7 on our website.

We Energies is part of a statewide effort to restore the peregrine falcon population. Since our first successful nest box in 1997, 273 peregrine falcons have hatched at We Energies facilities.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Falcons find their way to new home

When it comes to our peregrine falcon program, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. When you’re dealing with wild animals, anything can happen. For almost a year now, we’ve been crossing our fingers a falcon named “PBR” and his mate would find a new nest box we helped to place. There was no guarantee. But now we’re happy to report: The falcons have landed.
Peregrine manager Greg Septon and PBR.
PBR and his mate, a female without a tracking band, used to nest at Pleasant Prairie Power Plant. When the nest box was closed last year, Greg Septon, our peregrine manager, was already searching to identify a potential replacement site nearby.

Falcons are naturally drawn to cliffs and tall buildings along the water. After reading an article about our search, Pat Hicks, plant manager at Ardent Mills in Kenosha, knew his flour mill would be the perfect falcon habitat. Septon quickly agreed. It’s not too far from the power plant, and it’s more than 100 feet tall. Hicks and Septon installed a nest box there over the summer, crossed their fingers and started to wait.

After a long winter, their patience was rewarded. PBR and his mate have moved to the new site — exactly as we had hoped. When Septon checked on the new nest box in April, he even found four freshly laid eggs. And if all goes well, the falcons will raise another brood of young this year in their new home.

It’s thrilling for Septon, who founded the state’s peregrine recovery effort. The Pleasant Prairie nest box was one of the first nest box sites statewide, and more falcons were born there than at any other We Energies site. Now we know that legacy will continue – just a few miles away.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Batter up! 8,000 kids take a swing at energy safety during Brewers Weather Day

We Energies safety experts were a hit during the CBS 58 Milwaukee Brewers Weather Day at Miller Park April 17. Nearly 8,000 school-aged children from throughout Wisconsin and Illinois received valuable information about staying safe around energy equipment – especially during severe weather.

The triple play combination of Mark Schmidt, trainer in electric operations; John Feider, manager in natural gas operations; and Andrew LaTona, supervisor in damage prevention, touched all the bases when it came to imparting the importance of staying safe above and below ground, no matter the weather conditions. 

And what would a trip to the ballpark be without a hot dog? On this day, however, the favorite ballpark food provided a valuable lesson instead of a tasty treat.

Schmidt picked up a hot dog with insulated tongs and explained the similarities it has to people: “Both have water, salt and meat.” He then touched the hot dog to live wires – cooking it from the inside out within seconds. The visibly astonished students quickly realized the importance of avoiding electric wires and equipment.

Schmidt’s demonstration took place on a small-scale model of a street with homes, businesses, cars and people to show how each might come into contact with power equipment.

Students examined power line cables, connected fuses and learned from our employees what to do if severe weather causes a power outage or downed power lines.

Other electric operation employees talked to the students about how our employees stay safe when they are restoring power after a storm. The kids were then allowed to explore and try on safety equipment that line mechanics use on a daily basis.

Feider made a pitch for natural gas safety during his time with the students, teaching them that natural gas is colorless and odorless until we add an odorant similar to rotten eggs or sulfur, which helps detect leaks. They learned that if they smell that odor, they need to leave the area immediately and then call for help. 

During LaTona’s turn at bat, students were surprised to learn that any digging in their backyards, whether for a garden, a fire pit or a post for a basketball hoop, can damage underground equipment, which can be dangerous or even deadly.

They heard that calling 811 at least three days before digging projects can prevent accidents from happening. 

Students left so much brighter about energy safety, they had to wear shades – which we provided as a reminder about the lessons they learned that will keep them and their families safe at home.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What to expect when you're egg-specting

Peregrine falcon nesting season is an exciting time. Over a dozen eggs have been laid at our power plants this year, and if all goes well, the first chicks should start to hatch in early May. Right now, the parents are taking turn incubating the eggs. Greg Septon, our peregrine manager, gave us a rundown of what to expect at each nest box:

Oak Creek Power Plant

Eurus and Michael are incubating four eggs. Eurus laid her first egg in late March. They’re expected to hatch between May 4 and 6.

Valley Power Plant

Hercules and his mate, an unbanded female, are incubating three eggs at our Milwaukee nest box. They’re expected to hatch between May 7 and 9.

Port Washington Generating Station

Beasley and Brinn are incubating three eggs. Brinn laid four, but unfortunately, one broke. The remaining eggs are expected to hatch between May 4 and 6.

Weston Power Plant

Rosalee and Sheldon are incubating four eggs at the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) nest box in Rothschild. They’re expected to hatch between May 9 and 12.

WPS Building

This is a new site, and there aren’t any eggs this year. Septon suspects it’s only a matter of time until falcons discover the nest box and decide to call it home. 

You can check out our high-definition webcams at all five nest boxes. We are streaming 24/7 on our website. While you’re there, you also can learn more about our efforts to restore the peregrine falcon population. Since our first successful nest box in 1997, 273 peregrine falcons have hatched at We Energies facilities.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Employees help build Milwaukee home

A group of our employees put their hard hats and tools to a different use. Last week, dozens of employees volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help frame a house on Milwaukee’s north side. When completed, the home’s keys and mortgage will be handed over to a family in need of safe, affordable housing.

“Our employees are using their time and their talents to help Habitat for Humanity build homes to help renew this neighborhood and give back to our community,” said Kevin Fletcher, chief executive officer – WEC Energy Group. “I’m very proud that our guys and gals are doing such a wonderful job.”

We Energies is a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity. In fact, our crews have built a strong reputation with Habitat for Humanity leaders.

“We Energies is one of my favorite groups to come out ever. They always bring a solid crew,” said Rachel Sirriani, Habitat for Humanity construction supervisor. “Whether it’s their first time or a returner, they always work hard and get stuff done.”

That’s because our employees take tremendous pride in their work. Don Bousson, an account manager, jumped at the opportunity to help make a difference. 

“I think it’s going to change a neighborhood that’s sort of been run down in the past, and give families a fresh chance in a safe area. It’s great to be out here with all these other volunteers in this neighborhood,” he said.

The house is part of Habitat for Humanity’s Midtown 100 project. Their goal is to build 65 new homes and repair and rehab 35 more by 2020.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Customers urged to stay connected

We Energies is urging customers who are behind on their energy bills to get caught up before the end of the winter heating moratorium on April 15. Customers who owe a significant amount of money are at risk of disconnection starting the third week of April.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be using phone calls and bill inserts to alert affected customers. Please keep in mind, disconnection is always a last resort. 

We encourage any customers who are behind on their bills to visit our website or call our customer care center as soon as possible at 800-842-4565. Our representatives can explain some of the options available, including a flexible payment plan or minimum payment option. We also offer budget billing, which spreads energy expenses more evenly over 12 months.

In addition, some customers may qualify for energy assistance through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP). There is no charge to determine eligibility or to apply for assistance.

Scam Alert

Unfortunately, scammers have been known to prey on customers this time of year. Often, they’ll demand immediate payment via prepaid debit card. We will never do that. Customers who receive a suspicious phone call should hang up and contact us directly to verify the status of their account. We’ve posted more information about common scams on our website.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Peregrine falcons lay first eggs of the season

It's a little early for Easter, but we found our first eggs! Eurus laid her first egg overnight at the Oak Creek Power Plant, and an unbanded female laid her first egg this morning at Valley Power Plant.

We’re hoping for a few more eggs over the next week, so make sure to watch our live cameras closely. We’ll also post updates on Twitter and Facebook.

We Energies is part of a statewide effort to restore the peregrine falcon population. The DNR added the bird of prey to Wisconsin’s endangered species list in the 1970s. Since the company’s first successful nest box in 1997, 273 peregrines have hatched at We Energies facilities.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Familiar falcons return to power plants

It's a sure sign of spring. Love is in bloom at We Energies power plants. Some fan-favorite peregrine falcons have returned to roost, and introductions are in order thanks to our partners at Wisconsin Public Service.

Oak Creek Power Plant

Michael and Eurus are back at the Oak Creek nest box. Michael hatched in 2015 at the Racine County Courthouse nest site. This will be his third year at Oak Creek and second year he’s mated with Eurus. She hatched at a nest site in Green Bay in 2016. 

Valley Power Plant

Hercules and his mysterious mate have returned to Milwaukee. Hercules hatched at St. Joseph’s hospital in Milwaukee in 2011. This will be his sixth year at the Valley nest box. We don’t know much about his lady bird, because she is unbanded. Banding occurs when scientists attach a small, individually numbered tag to a bird’s leg to help track its movements. Our falcon expert, Greg Septon, believes this is the same female who’s been present at Valley since 2015.

Port Washington Generating Station

Beasley and Brinn are back at Port Washington. This is Brinn’s sixth year at the generating station nest box and Beasley’s third. Beasley hatched in 2014 in Wauwatosa. Brinn comes all the way from Split Rock State Park in Minnesota, where she hatched in 2012.

Weston Power Plant

Thanks to our partners at Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), this is our first year tracking the falcons at Weston Power Plant just south of Wausau. Sheldon and Rosalee have both been spotted there. Sheldon has nested at Weston for five years. He hatched in 2013 in Oshkosh. His mate, Rosalee, has been nesting at Weston since 2015. She hatched in Madison in 2014.

Wisconsin Public Service Building

A new nest box has been installed at the WPS building in Green Bay. You may have noticed a pheasant wing is attached to the perch to attract falcons to the nest box. Falcons have recently been observed in the area, and it is likely just a matter of time before they locate their new home.

The first eggs should be laid later this month. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates, and catch the action for yourself on our live cameras.

Last spring, 17 falcon chicks were produced, named and banded at We Energies power plants.

More information

2018 We Energies hatchlings

WPS falcon program

Friday, March 15, 2019

Keep your family safe by clearing snow and ice away from meters and vents

In the past few weeks, we received numerous reports from customers in western and central Wisconsin of damaged natural gas meters and blocked vents from snow and ice.

Damage to natural gas meters can cause dangerous gas leaks, and blocked vents can trap carbon monoxide indoors, causing a deadly threat to you and your family. Keeping the meter clear mitigates these risks and ensures that we can get to it quickly in an emergency.

If your roof has snow on it, beware. Melting snow can slide off your roof and onto your natural gas meter. Remove any snow buildup on your roof to prevent this from happening.

Ice fell from the roof of this home in
Richland Center damaging the natural gas meter

Icicles pose another problem. When it’s mild, they start dripping. A wet gas meter isn’t a problem, but a ice covered one is – and that’s what happens when the temperature drops.

“We are receiving 10 or more reports a day of damaged meters and natural gas leaks in the past week. These incidents sometimes led to some evacuations,” said Matthew Murphy, operations manager for We Energies.

Communities such as Montello, Wautoma, Wisconsin Rapids, Sparta, Marshfield, Owen, Rice Lake, Amery, Elmwood and many more have reported issues.

To avoid problems:

· Remove icicles that may drip water onto the meter.

· Avoid kicking or hitting the meter to break away built-up snow or ice.

· Use a broom to gently brush snow off the meter.

· Always shovel away from the meter.

· Take care when using a snow thrower or plow near your meter.

If you smell a natural gas odor, leave the house immediately and call our natural gas emergency number at 800-261-5325 from a nearby phone.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Trust your gut: Don’t fall for scam phone calls

“You owe more than $3,000.” Those words are enough to strike fear in anyone’s heart. Luckily, We Energies customer Terri Dreikosen knew exactly what to do when she heard them: hang up the phone.

Driekosen got the call Wednesday morning. “WE ENERGIES” showed up on the caller ID, and the number had a 262 area code. When she answered, a recorded voice told her to “remain on the line for an important message about your account.” But the “important message” that followed wasn’t really from We Energies. It was all a scam.

Usually, the crooks claim customers are behind on their bills and face disconnection unless an immediate payment is made with a pre-paid debit card or Green Dot card. In this case, they told Driekosen she qualified for a lower interest rate on her outstanding bills. But she knew she didn’t owe any money and hung up before they could con her.

That’s exactly what you should do too. If you get a call that sounds suspicious, trust your gut and hang up. We will never threaten you or ask you to pay us with a pre-paid card. If you’re unsure, call our Customer Care Center at 800-242-9137. They’ll help you verify if the call you received was a scam, check the status of your account and verify your payment history.

In March alone, customers have alerted us to about 75 scam calls. Luckily, none of them have fallen victim.

Unfortunately, these types of calls are a nationwide problem. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) regularly receives complaints from across the country about utility scams. If you lose money because of any scam, be sure to report the crime to local law enforcement.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Line mechanics climb U.S. Bank building in 25 lbs of gear

Climbing 1,034 stairs to the top of the U.S. Bank Center building in workout gear is hard enough. Imagine doing it in steel-toe boots and line mechanic gear!

For the first time ever, our employees donned 25 pounds of pole climbing gear and tackled the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb in Milwaukee. The annual event raises money and awareness in the fight against lung disease.

The Power Up pole climber team finished in first place.

The Weapons of Mass Development pole climber team came in second place.
This year, the event also helped raise awareness of our line mechanics— the men and women who maintain the electrical system and battle the elements to restore power during storms.

Inspired by firefighters who complete the climb in full gear, two teams of line mechanics competed against each other wearing steel-toe boots, hard hats, fire-resistant clothing, line mechanic gloves and, most important, climbing belts complete with wrenches, hammers and pliers.

Before the climb, Dave Harris, team leader and operations manager, talked to TMJ4 about his preparations. Watch the video below to see which piece of equipment he was most worried about slowing him down.

In the end, the Power Up Pole Climbing team edged out Harris’ Weapons of Mass Development team. Despite the extra weight, the top three climbers all finished in less than 11 minutes.

We Energies employees take on the Fight for Air Climb without gear.
A third team of our employees and their loved ones had it a little easier. Twenty-seven of them took part in the climb without all the gear. The three teams helped raise more than $7,000—making We Energies one of the top three companies to take part.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Celebrating International Women's Day

On this International Women’s Day we are recognizing the many outstanding and talented female employees at our company. Check out our twitter thread highlighting just a few of the 1,500 women who help keep your lights on and energy flowing.