Messages from the Council Chair

Investing in our environmental infrastructure

August 2022

Two people with tools, kneeling next to a small solar panel.When it comes to maintaining roads and bridges, we don’t bat an eye. Minnesota counties spend an average of $5,000 per mile to keep up with road maintenance; cities across the Gopher State spend up to $8,000 per mile.

Here at the Met Council, we will spend more $220 million this year to keep our wastewater treatment system operating as efficiently as possible. We all know that the cost of deferred maintenance grows exponentially as time goes by.

That’s why the legislation passed by Congress to invest in clean energy is so important. The new law makes a major investment in the fundamental infrastructure of energy and transportation, as well as promoting technologies that will ensure homes and businesses run cost effectively and reduce carbon emissions.

It will be several months before the details of the new programs funded by this legislation are worked out, but at a first glance here are a few of the things it will do.

Reducing energy costs for homes and businesses

Home and business owners who choose to install solar panels will be able to qualify for tax credits that will pay for 30% of the cost. That’s estimated to make it possible for 180,000 Minnesota homes to go solar. The credits will also apply to developers who build solar farms to power homes and businesses.

The new law makes big investments in businesses developing large clean energy power generation and storage. Currently, Minnesota has over 57,000 people employed in this sector. By 2030, this legislation would invest up to $8.5 billion on new Minnesota power generation projects.

Making electric vehicles more affordable

Over 90% of Twin Cities drivers travel fewer than 200 miles a day, well below the range of an electric vehicle. This legislation helps consumers who choose to go electric make that decision with a tax credit of $7,500 for a new electric vehicle and $4,000 for a used vehicle.

Chair Charlie Zelle Even if you don’t agree that climate change is cause by human activity, it’s a fact that the Earth is warming. Hotter weather evaporates more water, and that causes heavier precipitation leading to more extreme weather. In the last half century, Minnesota has had 16 mega-rainfall events with more than six inches of rain over a 24-hour period – and 11 of those have occurred in the last 20 years.

This legislation will help communities upgrade affordable housing to be more resilient to flooding and extreme weather. It will invest in rebuilding and enhancing forests to prevent wildfires as well as invest in urban tree planting to protect communities from extreme heat.

Much of this work has already been prioritized by cities across our region as they plan for long-term growth. Mitigating the impacts of climate change and adapting to a new, warmer future were elements of dozens of the 10-year comprehensive plans that were submitted to the Met Council as part of our ongoing regional planning process. But now Congress has acted, making funding available to support turning these plans into reality.

– Chair Charlie Zelle