In Michigan, we love the water. We know how important our river hydro plants, and the reservoirs they create, are to the people living near them. People enjoy living, working and playing on the water and in the communities that have grown up near our 13 dams. But in the next 10 years, some of our hydro operating licenses issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will expire. As we plan for a future of reliable, affordable clean energy we will take part in a multi-year review of all our hydroelectric plants.
A Review of Current Hydro Operations
A detailed review of our 13 river hydro plants will help us choose the best path forward.
For each plant there are several potential results. It could lead to a renewal of our operating license for 30 more years. It could also lead to replacing or removal of the plant. Transferring ownership is another possibility. During each review we will be looking at the following:
We will inspect the safety of each plant. We will also review the condition of the plant. On top of that we will review what could happen to people living downstream if a dam fails.
Complying with Regulations
We will evaluate the cost and feasibility of operating each plant safely, while meeting state and federal regulations.
We will explore how each hydro plant and reservoir has affected the surrounding community. We will also explore how potential changes to the hydro plant could affect the community.
Cost of Operation
We will explore expected future spending for operating each plant. We will also add up the electricity we expect each plant to generate.
We will explore the impact of each plant on the environment. We will look at sediments, fish and other animals, invasive species, and other ways the plant affects the environment.
We will review the impact of each hydro plant on local recreation.
We are very aware that decisions we make about our hydro operations could have an impact on local communities and recreation. That’s why we held public meetings about each facility, run by a neutral third party.
At each meeting the public gave us their feedback, and learned about:
We will use what we heard as we plan the future of our hydro plants.
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Meeting Dates and Locations
Questions About Hydro Planning
Consumers Energy is undertaking a review of our 13 hydroelectric facilities as part of our obligation to deliver safe, reliable, affordable, and clean energy for our 1.8 million electric customers. We understand that many communities feel a strong connection to these facilities due to their history and role in tourism, recreation, and community identity. The community conversation regarding the facility near you is part of a broader effort to ensure our review looks at community impact.
Consumers Energy, as the owner and licensee, must file with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a notice of intent to apply for a new license at least five years before the existing license expires. The current licenses expire within the next 12 to 22 years across the 13 hydroelectric facilities with 11 of those licenses expiring in 2034. Often licenses have 50-year terms assuming the licensed operations remain in compliance.
The upcoming community conversation allow us to share information and gain feedback from each community.
Many issues are addressed when considering relicensing a hydroelectric project. Issues involved include environmental, land, recreation, wildlife, water quality, and cultural and aquatic resource issues. Federal agencies, state agencies, and other interested parties engage in the process to ensure these issues are appropriately addressed, and participate in the extensive and detailed documentation, studies, reports, and meetings with the license holder. Consequently, this process takes many years.
FERC offers an education guide on the relicensing process and other comprehensive resources.
Consumers Energy will continue honoring the licensee arrangements that are in effect during the review of the hydroelectric operations. Also, we are the proud sponsors of several events along the rivers including the Au Sable Canoe Marathon. Our relationship to those events will continue during the review.
The Consumers Energy review of our 13 hydroelectric facilities is a company-initiated process independent of the state task force. The Michigan Dam Safety Task Force met in 2020 and 2021 at the direction of Governor Whitmer following the May 2020 failures of the dams in mid-Michigan to evaluate:
Some of the findings and recommendations from the Michigan Dam Safety Task Force Report may influence how state agencies participate in ongoing conversations about our hydroelectric operations.
Consumers Energy values public participation and will appreciate public involvement and input throughout the review process. Information pertaining to the community conversations and the facilities review process will be shared on this page.
All feedback received about our dams will be evaluated by top decision makers at Consumers Energy, and considered as we create a plan for the future of Michigan hydro power.