GRAND FORKS, N.D. – On July 11, the energy industry convened for the 7th annual “Energizing North Dakota’s Future” conference. Held at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), this dynamic event brought together experts, legislators, and state officials to tackle critical energy topics.
Charles Gorecki, CEO of the EERC, welcomed attendees as the event kicked off on Tuesday morning. He reviewed the 40-year history of the EERC as well as the economic impact of the energy industry on North Dakota. “I firmly believe that our partnerships with industry and government over the past 40 years hold the power to expand both our future and the North Dakota economy,” Gorecki explained. “We recognize our responsibility to harness this immense potential while ensuring sustainable growth and environmental stewardship. By embracing innovative technologies and fostering partnerships, we strive to strike a harmonious balance between progress and preservation. Together, we can empower the North Dakota economy, driving it toward a brighter, cleaner, and more prosperous future for generations to come.”
During a panel discussion at this year’s event, a significant focus was placed on the challenges and next steps facing North Dakota’s energy industry. Mac McLennan, President and CEO of Minnkota Power Cooperative, highlighted a significant challenge faced by the utility industry involving the disparity between public demand for renewable energy and the reliability of North Dakota’s current energy sources: “There’s a mismatch on what we can achieve now and what the public thinks we can achieve now.” The panel agreed that one solution to this lies in comprehensive public outreach. Kathy Neset, Owner and President of Neset Consulting, Inc., stated, “It’s about continuing to tell a story. We need to come together to inform the public through an ‘all-of-the-above’ [communication] approach.”
The event also delved into North Dakota’s current resources and technology outlook. A panel discussion, led by EERC staff, detailed the groundbreaking research and development being conducted at the EERC that integrates both reliable and sustainable energy solutions. Featured projects mentioned included the Polar Bear™ project, dedicated to reducing pipeline flaring; the intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program (iPIPE), advancing technologies impacting pipeline safety; carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies; and the remarkable progress in rare-earth element, graphene, graphite, ammonia, and hydrogen production research.
Also presented on Tuesday was the EERC Energy Champion Award. The award was created in 1986 to honor individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary personal commitment to energy and environmental research and development. Since then, the award has been presented 13 times to honorees who represent both public service and the private sector. The 2023 Energy Champion Award was presented to retired Executive Director and Secretary of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, Karlene Fine.