Consumers Energy to study impacts of its dams on local communities

JACKSON—Officials at Consumers Energy said the Jackson-based utility will conduct an independent study during the first half of 2023 to determine the contribution of its 13 river hydroelectric generating dams to local communities near those dams across Michigan.

The study will build on information gathered during community engagement meetings held in 2022 to help determine the future of its dams.

“Consumers Energy is committed to being a good neighbor and working transparently as we make informed decisions to reach the best outcomes for our customers, stakeholders and the communities we serve,” said Norm Kapala, vice president of generation operations at Consumers Energy. “We know our dams play significant roles in Michigan, especially in the economies of the communities near our facilities, and we share with local leaders and others the desire to quantify those impacts before developing long term strategies regarding the future of those facilities.”

The 30- to 40-year federal licenses to operate the dams Consumers Energy owns and operates on the Muskegon, Manistee, Grand, Kalamazoo and Au Sable rivers are set to expire beginning in 2034.

Consumers Energy is considering four options for each of its 13 dams: Relicensing the river hydro dam and continue generating electricity, selling the dam to a third party, removing the dam, or replacing the dam with an alternative structure that maintains some level of reservoir.

The energy provider hired Public Sector Consultants, a Lansing-based nonpartisan consulting firm that specializes in public policy research, to perform the economic study. PSC has longstanding expertise in studying energy and the environment, economic research, public engagement, and group facilitation. The firm conducted the 2022 community river hydro in-person listening sessions and will build on the feedback from those meetings for this current work.

PSC will begin by engaging each of the local communities to identify and review available data to ensure the studies find all contributing factors that influence the local economies around Consumers Energy’s dams. They will produce individual studies for each dam to better understand the unique economic contributions—including data on how the hydro facilities and their associated reservoirs contribute to the recreational and tax bases of the communities—of all 13 hydro sites.

“A common theme we heard during our 27 community engagement meetings with communities and stakeholders is to know more about how much of the economic activity in the communities around our dams are associated with the hydro facilities,” Kapala said. “We have listened to the community members and we are working on this economic contribution study to answer those questions to better understand those impacts.”

For more information about the process to determine the future of Consumers Energy’s river hydro facilities, visit ConsumersEnergy.com/HydroFuture

Consumers Energy is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

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