Safety and Operations
Safety is a core value at MGE and is reflected in all our employees. When it comes to safety, every person and every company can always improve upon their safety performance. That is why we embrace a philosophy of continuous improvement.
We Power Safety
In 2014, MGE launched a corporate safety commitment to improve our safety culture and begin MGE's journey to safety excellence. Our Safety Steering Team meets regularly to examine safety topics and to identify and to prioritize continuous improvement opportunities.
Our employees have taken the lead through their continuous improvement efforts to make MGE a safer place to work. Our employee-led Continuous Improvement Teams (CI Teams) are one example.
One of our employee-led CI Teams was tasked with developing a safety vision statement. The team drafted a statement of safety values that encompasses the business of MGE and creates a positive message that all MGE employees can adopt. This safety vision statement—we power safety—is highly visible throughout our organization.
In 2018, four years into our safety journey, MGE achieved historic safety results. We recorded the lowest lost-time incident rate since we started keeping records in 1971. We also had our lowest total recordable incident rate since 1982 and second lowest since we started keeping records in 1971. In 2018, MGE employees worked more than one million hours without a lost-time incident.
Crane operator training
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently developed new safety rules requiring a new certification for crane operators. MGE has a total of five cranes that fall into three different categories, requiring this certification for our operators.
The certification must be obtained from an accredited, third-party crane certification organization. In January 2019, 12 MGE employees from various operations departments took both written and practical tests throughout a one-week course to receive their certification.
The training was conducted at the MGE Training Facility in Fitchburg, Wis. Before the training could take place there, MGE first had to become an approved training facility through the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators.
Continuous Improvement Teams
SWAT and SPOT
In 2018, we had two CI Teams. The first, our Stop Work Authority Team (SWAT), strengthened a process that gives all employees the power to stop work and be safe. It empowers and provides employees with the responsibility and obligation to stop work when a real or perceived unsafe condition or behavior may result in an unwanted event.
Our Safety Proactive Observation Team (SPOT), the second 2018 CI Team, designed a process that provides employees with positive recognition and reinforcement of positive behaviors. The process is designed to help showcase the good work practices that occur on a daily basis across MGE and to reinforce positive safety behaviors.
Risk Team Six
As we work to build on the historic safety success from 2018, our sixth CI Team is focusing on risk behaviors at work. Risk Team Six developed a strategy to gain a clear understanding if risks are taken by employees, why they would take risks and how to mitigate risks. The team is working with 28 focus groups of operations employees to develop a proactive plan to address risk behaviors.
MGE's near-miss/good catch reporting process continues to be successful. This proactive process, developed by an employee-led CI Team in 2017, is designed to encourage reporting that identifies, documents, addresses and allows everyone to learn from safety impacts. The reporting process establishes accountability at all levels of the company to ensure it is implemented in a safe, no-blame environment.
In two years of using the near-miss/good catch process, more than 130 near-miss and good catch reports have been filed. Sharing near-miss/good catch reports with employees is designed to help all employees learn about safety issues and to help prevent incidents, both of which serve to improve our safety culture and collective performance.
MGE offers employees a comprehensive wellness program. Our Healthy Rewards program includes exercise classes led by professional instructors; a fitness room with exercise equipment; educational sessions on nutrition, wellness, weight control and smoking cessation; expertise available from the Mayo Clinic through the managewell.com website; biometric screenings; health assessments; and annual flu shots. These offerings promote healthy living for our employees.
Preventing sprains and strains
MGE supports employees through a partnership with a workplace injury prevention sports medicine provider that employs athletic trainers. These trainers teach employees how to properly warm up and stretch before performing physically demanding work. This partnership was launched to address sprain and strain prevention proactively and before medical treatment becomes necessary.
We recognize that our operations employees are industrial athletes. Like a professional athlete, working athletes need the highest level of support and care.
With easy access to the athletic trainers, employees are able to get the coaching they need from someone who understands the type of work they do and the type of injuries they may experience. Our trainers can help with early intervention to minimize and even eliminate those injuries. In early 2019, the program expanded to include MGE's office employees.
As a result of this partnership, sprain and strain injuries requiring medical treatment have fallen dramatically. It's a positive program for employees and the company, reducing injuries and producing savings in the workers' compensation fund.
All hazards response
Whether it's a natural disaster or a manmade disaster, such as a cyberattack, MGE has plans in place to prevent and mitigate damage. Having a well-defined and practiced All Hazards Response Plan is critical to managing and responding appropriately to an emergency situation. MGE's All Hazards Response Plan encompasses everything from storm response to cyberattacks.
Storm Response Plan
MGE takes seriously the risk from severe weather. We have a companywide Storm Response Plan (SRP), which serves as our guide or framework for rapid, effective response to emergencies caused by extreme weather events.
The Incident Commander leads the SRP functions and is supported by Section Chiefs who are responsible for running the major functional sections within the SRP. Some of those functions include assessing damage, ordering supplies and managing mutual assistance crews from other utilities as well as responding to media and customers experiencing an outage or other service-related issues from the event.
Successful joint response to storm and flood
In August 2018, record amounts of rain fell across MGE's service territory, causing unprecedented flooding and a joint storm response from MGE gas and electric crews. Typically, our storm response efforts focus entirely on electric restoration. This storm's subsequent flooding prompted a more collaborative storm response effort from both Electric and Gas Operations and others across the organization, including Facilities Management.
The threat of flooding in downtown Madison also meant MGE incident command staff kept in close communication with City and County officials to prepare to respond to a prolonged flood event. MGE infrastructure did not suffer any serious issues.
Cybersecurity a priority
MGE recognizes the potential impact of cyber threats to our company and the utility industry. We are committed to protecting our computers, networks and data from unauthorized access to ensure safe, reliable service for customers. This requires ongoing effort, and we continue to update our response plans to proactively reduce risks.
Simulating a cyberattack is an effective way to help prepare for and safeguard against such an incident. In recent years, MGE has participated in both national and statewide cybersecurity exercises.
In 2018, MGE built a state-of-the-art Cyber Range training facility on its campus. The range allows MGE and its partners to practice cybersecurity methods and build experience and confidence in our Security Operations teams. The range was used in 2018 during an advanced cybersecurity and emergency response exercise known as Dark Sky. The statewide exercise involved the Wisconsin Army National Guard and other partners. MGE and the Wisconsin Army National Guard continue their ongoing collaboration around cybersecurity.
Working to keep our communities safe
In addition to the safety of our employees, the safety of our customers also is a top priority. We strive to keep customers well informed about the potential dangers of electricity and natural gas and what to do in an emergency, using electric and natural gas safety advertising and information included with our bills, on our social media channels and on mge.com.
MGE is a proud sponsor of the Madison Fire Department's annual Safety Saturday event. MGE employees from Electric Construction and Operations, Gas Construction and Operations, and Corporate Communications staff a display to share important gas and electric safety information.
Safety Saturday uses interactive displays and exhibits to educate parents, children and the public on ways to make safe decisions, to prevent injuries and to encourage the use of safety devices such as seat belts, bike helmets, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Safety in the classroom
MGE partners with schools throughout our service territory and offers a wide array of classroom lessons, including electric and natural gas safety. From curriculum supporting materials to visiting the classroom to share safety tips, MGE provides important energy safety lessons to students.
One of the most popular programs is MGE's Switch to Safety. In addition to discussing gas safety, an MGE representative uses a tabletop electric safety model to illustrate and simulate potentially dangerous outdoor electric safety situations.
From the classroom to the street
In March 2019, after attending an MGE natural gas and electric safety presentation at his school, a fourth grader had an opportunity to "practice" what he learned. Walking home from school with his adult neighbor, the boy smelled something that reminded him of the scratch-and-sniff gas safety card he received during the MGE presentation.
When they got home, the neighbor contacted MGE. A crew came out and identified a gas leak between the sidewalk and curb near his neighbor's home. The crew made repairs while the boy and his family watched from their nearby home.
First responder training
MGE works closely with police and firefighters who respond to emergencies within our service territory. Every year, MGE's Electric and Gas Operations departments conduct safety training with first responders within the communities we serve. MGE also routinely conducts drills with the Madison Fire Department at both of our Madison power plants. In this photo, the Madison Fire Department conducts confined space training inside of our Blount Generating Station.
Natural gas safety and sustainability
Ensuring reliability and safety are top priorities at MGE along with our environmental commitment. We are committed to continuing to provide the high level of service our customers expect.
Industry leader in emergency response
When notified of a potential natural gas emergency, MGE crews continue to earn high marks. Again in 2018, our first responders recorded one of the fastest average response times, according to a nationwide industry survey of more than 80 utilities.
This ranking is reflective of our dedicated employees who always put customer safety first and understand what it means to serve as your community energy company. It also shows what a good process MGE has in place—from when the call comes into the Customer Center to when our employees arrive on-site.
Suppliers' commitment to sustainability
MGE contracts with two natural gas transmission companies, Northern Natural and ANR Pipeline Company, owned by TC Energy.
Both of these companies, as part of their sustainability commitments, are part of the ONE Future Coalition. ONE Future is the trade name for "Our Nation's Energy Future Coalition, Inc." This group of natural gas companies works together to voluntarily reduce methane emissions across the natural gas supply chain.
TC Energy also is a founding partner in the EPA's Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program, which launched in 2016. Partners in this voluntary program report systemic and comprehensive actions to reduce methane emissions as part of efforts to enhance transparency in the industry.
Sustainability benchmarking and partnerships
MGE is committed to reducing environmental impacts across all areas of the company. MGE voluntarily participates in two statewide environmental performance programs and participates in various industry sustainability and benchmarking groups.
Green Masters Program
In 2018, MGE earned the Green Master designation for the fifth consecutive year from the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council. Only the top 20% of applying companies receive the Green Master designation.
The independent, points-based benchmarking program evaluates applicants in nine key areas: energy, climate change, water, waste, transportation, supply chain, community outreach, workforce and governance. MGE was the first utility to be awarded the distinction in 2014.
Energy Sustainability Interest Group
MGE partners with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in a number of areas, including the Energy Sustainability Interest Group (ESIG). The largest sustainability-focused group of its kind in the electric power industry, ESIG:
- Provides a collaborative industry forum for electric power companies to discuss sustainability issues.
- Conducts focused technical research and develops specific tools to support sustainability program development.
- Tackles the challenge of identifying and understanding sustainability issues, goals, metrics and disclosure.
- Facilitates stakeholder engagement.
- Informs sustainability reporting initiatives.
ESIG projects focus on priority issues, goals, metrics and sustainability communication for the electric power industry and its stakeholders. The project work may be utilized by group members to inform the development of their own sustainability programs and initiatives. Launched in 2008, ESIG has more than 40 members from the electric power industry.
The year 2018 marked the fifth year of EPRI's ongoing effort to identify and understand metrics appropriate for benchmarking the performance of electric power companies on their priority sustainability issues. MGE has participated in this EPRI benchmarking since it began in 2014.
The Sustainability Benchmarking for Utilities project is conducted in collaboration with the previously mentioned ESIG and subject matter experts throughout EPRI. The project work is designed to advance technical research around what a sustainable electric power company looks like and how it can support the sustainable generation, delivery and utilization of electric power to customers.
Transparency and disclosure
To advance further transparency and disclosure in our operations and governance, MGE also participates in the Edison Electric Institute's (EEI) environmental, social, governance (ESG) and sustainability-related reporting template. The voluntary, industry-specific template includes both qualitative and quantitative information, such as generation and emissions data. Our EEI templates are available at mgeenergy.com/environment.
Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures
Our report is organized to be consistent with the disclosure recommendations identified by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to help customers, investors and other stakeholders better understand our strategies, challenges and opportunities.
The company has reviewed the TCFD recommendations, performed an analysis of its disclosures relative to the TCFD recommendations and determined that MGE's disclosures are consistent with the TCFD guidance and recommendations.
Protecting our natural resources
MGE takes steps to protect our natural resources. This means doing our part to help improve waterways, preserve the natural beauty of our communities and protect wildlife habitats.
Pollutants transported in stormwater are harmful to lakes, rivers, wetlands and waterways. MGE implements measures to protect our water bodies. For example, MGE's downtown parking lot has a stormwater filtration system. This system cleans stormwater before it drains into nearby Lake Monona. This system is effective in reducing pollutants such as petroleum compounds, sediment and phosphorus.
We are committed to implementing proper erosion-control methods at all work sites. This minimizes the likelihood of soil being washed out of a site. We track permits and inspections and have a committee that reviews new regulations, field techniques and technologies to ensure we effectively manage our erosion-control strategies.
Invasive species and non-native plants adversely affect areas where they spread. They also may pose a risk to human health. Invasive species can be found in forests, grasslands, wetlands, lakes and rivers.
MGE's Electric and Gas Operations employees are trained on how to identify invasive species in MGE's service area, plan work around them, avoid contact and follow procedures for post-work cleanup.
During a recent gas project near Black Earth Creek, MGE crews thought they may have encountered a New Zealand mudsnail, an invasive snail. The project supervisor stopped work, took a picture of the snail with a nickel by it for scale and sent the photo to a member of MGE's Environmental Affairs team. The photo then was shared with an invasive species expert at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Within 10 minutes of the photo being taken on-site, it was determined that it was a native snail and work was able to resume.
The combination of interdepartmental coordination and formal systems helps MGE stay in compliance, minimize impacts and avoid project shutdowns.
Solar powers corporate office
Nearly 450 solar panels on our corporate office in Madison, Wis., generate about 10% of the energy needed annually to power the facility. The array, along with 52 panels in our visitor parking lot, represent another step in our ongoing path toward greater sustainability throughout our operations.
In addition, MGE's 2,000-square-foot office building in Prairie du Chien, Wis., also has 20 solar panels on the roof capable of producing about 5.3 kW of energy.
Bottle filling stations and filtration systems
Throughout our facilities, MGE has 16 water bottle filling stations and filtration systems for employees to reduce the use of plastic bottles. In the seven years since the first one was installed, MGE employees have avoided using more than 488,000 disposable plastic bottles.
Eliminating waste with E-records
MGE's E-records Center allows employees to submit electronic documents to be stored as records rather than keeping paper copies. Over time, this will reduce our volume of paper. This environmentally friendly option also frees up physical storage space.
MGE launched My Bill Pay, our new and improved paperless billing and online payment system, for customers in 2016. Online billing and payment is a "win-win" for customers and companies. Studies find customers are more satisfied when viewing and paying their bills electronically. Companies benefit by realizing paper and postage savings from not having to print and mail paper bills.
In July 2019, MGE hit 42% paperless billing adoption by customers, resulting in an estimated annualized savings of more than $300,000. It also means more than 1.3 million bill pages are not printed each year, which saves:
- More than 2,600 reams of paper per year.
- More than 13,000 pounds, or six and a half tons, of paper per year.
Supply Chain and Waste Management
Successful waste management requires a solid recycling program. We encourage employees to make smart choices about the environment. That includes supporting our recycling and waste-reduction efforts every day. We work to conserve, recycle and manage waste efficiently.
Our all-in-one recycling method includes paper products, glass, plastic and aluminum. We also recycle various metals and other scrap materials left over from field work. Our computing equipment and supplies are sent to an e-Stewards certified company for recycling or reuse, and our alkaline batteries go to a vendor who recovers steel and zinc. Additionally, a local vendor takes our wood pallets, recycling them into mulch.
We also recycle thermostats and other mercury-containing devices, chemicals, steel, iron, copper, glass and cell phones.
MGE continues to use earth-friendly paint options in place of aerosol cans that typically have been used to mark underground gas and electric facilities. Aerosol cans push out the paint using a propellant, which is often hazardous. Aerosol cans also are under pressure, which causes them to be considered hazardous waste even if the paint in the can is not hazardous.
Several years ago, MGE switched to a bagged paint technology, which offers several benefits, including:
- Reduced waste. Once empty, the pouched bags are biodegradable.
- Increased safety. The pouches, which also are less bulky, are not stored under pressure.
We continue to research and test earth-friendly painting options for marking our gas and electric underground facilities. We currently are testing a steel can that is designed so it can be recycled when empty. Early testing shows it is easier to use and has a more consistent marking quality than the bagged paint technology.
Aluminum cans also are a higher-value recyclable product than plastic bags. Because recycling aluminum takes less energy, the market for recycled aluminum remains consistently high, and aluminum can be recycled repeatedly into new products without changing its elemental traits. We will continue to evaluate this new option from an operational and environmental perspective.
Local purchases support the local economy and are typically more environmentally friendly. When it is time to purchase goods needed to run our company, we review our supplier database and buy from local vendors when possible and cost-effective. Many of the materials and equipment that utilities need are highly specialized; however, we buy U.S. products whenever possible.
Comprehensive risk minimization
MGE has transitioned to a new software system for use in risk minimization. MGE's environmental team oversees hundreds of routine monitoring, record-keeping and reporting tasks, some of which occur every week. In the past, these were tracked on multiple different servers to manage the data and deadlines as the tasks were assigned to and tracked for employees across several departments.
In 2019, MGE began using the new software, which replaced all the old servers and more, with one comprehensive Environmental Management Information System (EMIS). The new EMIS makes it significantly easier to see and track the different tasks. For example, inspections in the field are now done and saved electronically, which means the data can be retrieved instantly.
The new system provides MGE with better and quicker access to the status of compliance activities and improved information for resource planning. It also improves our reporting performance. This leads to more efficient use of time, better alignment of information management processes and simplified training for turnover or responsibility transfers.
In 2017, MGE expanded the scope of our renewed five-year contract with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for Green Tier certification, which recognizes environmental leadership. Our primary goal in the expanded contract is to cover all MGE operations under our Environmental Management System (EMS). An EMS is a continuous improvement process that evaluates, prioritizes and manages environmental risks.
MGE previously used an EMS at our Blount Generating Station. The expanded scope of our EMS will capture environmental improvements across the company and further demonstrate our commitment to goal-setting and environmental accountability.
Building and implementing an expanded EMS is a major undertaking that requires a great deal of up-front documentation. MGE's first Continuous Improvement Sustainability Team is overseeing the EMS expansion. The team is making progress on the required documentation for the EMS and has identified an environmental risk assessment process.