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Energy

Renewable-energy advocates tout job growth

A clean-energy study has asserted Minnesota's conservation-and renewable industries are growing jobs faster than the overall economy.

And Advanced Energy Economy and Clean Energy Economy Minnesota want the next governor and Legislature to adapt policies that will "take advantage of the economic development potential provided by advanced energy technologies and services."

Their August report said efficiency, renewable energy and advanced electric-grid technology employ 59,000 people, up 2.6 percent last year and projected to grow more in the future as the price of wind and solar decline.

A recent McKnight Foundation study projects 50,000 additional jobs by 2050 by embracing low-carbon strategies.

Meanwhile, a coalition of wind, solar, energy storage and other local companies, including Mortenson Construction, last week embraced a greener future that cuts carbon emissions, which scientists contend drives volatile weather that means more fatalities, health problems and untold billions in costs.

Companies such as Xcel Energy and Great River Energy already have reached their initial alternative-energy goals of a decade ago and are doubling down as the price of wind and solar production decline as demand and production increase.

Advanced Energy and Clean Energy (www.cleanenergyeconomymn.org) are urging the next governor to increase the state's renewable-energy standard.

They argue a higher standard will provide "market certainty for utilities and investors" building low-carbon, energy-efficient technologies, encourage electric vehicles, and modernize the electricity system with a focus on consumer conservation, grid modernization and storage for wind energy and solar energy.

Neal St. Anthony

Grants

Andamio Games latest to land federal funds

Andamio Games has landed $1.1 million in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funds from the National Institutes of Health.

The startup, spun out of Minneapolis-based Adventium Labs, said it will use the money to develop its BrainAware mobile application; an interactive educational tool designed for adolescents and young adults to improve success with substance abuse treatment.

President Adam Gordon said Andamio Games is collaborating with Center for Studies of Addiction in the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and that "upon successful completion of the project, we will partner with Hazelden Publishing to distribute the product to treatment facilities across the country."

More small business innovators should seek SBIR federal funds, since Congress this year has set aside almost $3 billion for the program, according to Pat Dillion, program director for MN-SBIR, based at the Minnesota High Tech Association.

"The technological innovations supported by SBIR/STTR funding are critical to Minnesota's new technology-driven economy," Dillon said. "Opportunities in small businesses exist throughout the state. However, reaching these companies is difficult."

This fiscal year, nearly $3 billion in federal funds are available through SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) programs.

Small businesses have opportunities to apply for funds from 11 federal agencies that call for innovative ideas with commercial potential across the spectrum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Neal St. Anthony

health plans

UCare latest to back Healthy Savings effort

UCare is the latest health plan to dabble with programs that offer coupons to subscribers so they might buy healthier foods at the grocery store.

The Minneapolis-based insurer said Monday it would make a program called Healthy Savings available to people who purchase UCare's individual health insurance policies for 2019.

Minnetonka-based Medica launched a similar program several years ago for employer groups. Not all health insurers think the concept is a winner, but Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare has been expanding its program for grocery discounts over the past year.

Healthy Savings is a program marketed by Plymouth-based Solutran, which offers weekly discounts that are preloaded onto participant accounts and activated at the checkout of participating retailers.

"Healthy Savings makes healthy eating an easy choice for many of our members," said Ghita Worcester, a UCare executive.

UCare sells coverage to individuals on the state's MNsure health exchange.

The individual market primarily serves people under age 65 who are self-employed or don't get health insurance benefits from their employer.

Christopher Snowbeck