The EERC Energy Champion 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 11 times to honorees who represent both public service and the private sector, most recently to North Dakota State Senator Ray Holmberg in June 2019.
- Senator Ray Holmberg, North Dakota Legislative Assembly, is the EERC’s eleventh Energy Champion. Senator Holmberg’s visionary leadership and long-standing commitment to higher education, industry, and a strong economy in North Dakota bring together the state’s research universities and energy industry, a connection critical to successful energy development regionally and nationwide. First elected to the State Senate in November 1976, he has represented District 17 for more than 40 years and is one of the ten longest-serving tenured state legislators in the United States. Senator Holmberg currently chairs the standing Senate Appropriations Committee and the procedural Rules Committee and serves on the interim Budget Section. Throughout his career in the North Dakota Legislature, Senator Holmberg has been a staunch supporter of the University of North Dakota (UND) and the EERC. In the 66th Legislative Assembly, he championed Senate Bill 2249, which establishes the EERC as the Energy Research Center of North Dakota to conduct exploratory, transformational, and innovative research that advances future energy opportunities and benefits the state’s economy and environment. For his unwavering dedication to public service, his commitment to a strong state energy industry and economy, and his invaluable support for the work of the EERC, we are privileged to present Senator Ray Holmberg with the Energy Champion Award.
- Senator John Hoeven is the EERC’s tenth Energy Champion. Senator Hoeven’s leadership, vision, and commitment to the state of North Dakota and to its energy industry throughout his career have kept North Dakota and the EERC at the forefront of energy development nationwide. Throughout his service to North Dakota and the nation, Senator Hoeven has been a champion of the EERC’s work. His leadership regarding the EERC’s Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) resulted in its recent expansion from $2.5 million to $12 million, and he continues to point to the EERC’s successful research partnership with DOE as an example of how such a relationship can lead to the development and deployment of innovative energy technologies for the future. For his steadfast commitment to the energy industry, his invaluable support for the work of the EERC, and his extraordinary leadership and representation of North Dakota and its people, the EERC is proud and honored to present Senator John Hoeven with the 2017 Energy Champion Award.
- Dr. Michael Jones, Vice President of Research and Development for the North Dakota Lignite Energy Council, is honored as the EERC’s 2016 Energy Champion for his extraordinary commitment to the energy industry, his tremendous leadership, and his invaluable partnership to the EERC. Dr. Jones’s steadfast dedication to the EERC was integral to the EERC’s success and transition from a federal facility to one of the nation’s premier energy research facilities. His part in developing early industry–government consortia provided a road map for decades of success at the EERC, an approach that became a foundation for programs that tackle many of the most vexing issues facing fossil energy. Dr. Jones’s ability to translate and communicate complex technical subjects to broad audiences and to form strong partnerships made him an invaluable asset to the EERC and the energy industry. Dr. Jones’s career, contributions, and leadership in the energy industry span more than 35 years and have had a significant impact on the nation, North Dakota, the lignite industry, and the EERC.
- Senator Byron Dorgan is honored as the eighth recipient of the EERC’s Energy Champion Award for his vision and relentless commitment to energy security for the nation; the ongoing development of clean, efficient energy technologies; and economic development in the region and for his recognition of the EERC’s role in the future of those initiatives. Senator Dorgan conceptualized and aggressively promotes and facilitates the Red River Valley Research Corridor, which is providing the framework for exciting commercial spin-offs from North Dakota’s universities. He has called for a major national effort to increase energy independence and energy security in the United States by developing hydrogen fuel cell energy technologies. He was instrumental in championing the EERC’s designation as the National Center for Hydrogen Technology®. Senator Dorgan’s commitment to energy security is underscored by his belief that energy independence will result from the development of innovative, environmentally friendly concepts for the use of multiple indigenous resources, including clean coal, oil, gas, wind, biomass, hydrogen, and oxygenated fuels. He stands by this commitment through his continued efforts to secure funding to drive the research and development needed to achieve innovative energy solutions that protect the environment.
- Thomas Bechtel, former director of DOE’s Morgantown Energy Technology Center (METC), is honored as the seventh recipient of the Energy Champion Award. Throughout his tenure as METC’s director, Bechtel’s relationship with the EERC was based on the mutual understanding that government, industry, and research organizations are far more effective and productive when they work in true partnership to provide solutions to energy and environmental challenges. Bechtel championed the EERC’s unique approach of conducting research and development leading to the demonstration and commercialization of cleaner, more efficient energy systems and technologies to clean up environmental contamination and prevent pollution. He not only fostered this approach, but also promoted its successes and encouraged its implementation throughout government, industry, and research circles.
- Dr. Everett Sondreal is the sixth recipient of the EERC’s Energy Champion Award. Over the past 40 years, his commitment to excellence and dedication to providing practical solutions to critical energy and environmental problems have come to embody the EERC’s philosophy and approach. His research on coal and clean coal technologies and his leadership during the EERC’s transition from federal to state ownership make him a worthy candidate for this award. Dr. Sondreal’s principal interests and expertise are in coal properties and clean coal technology. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 publications, and he holds a U.S. patent for continuous liquefaction of coal. As the primary architect of the Cooperative Agreement between DOE and UND, his efforts helped smooth the transition to state ownership. In great appreciation for Dr. Sondreal’s dedication to making the EERC one of the world’s leading energy and environmental research facilities and for his pragmatic approach to conducting focused, practical research, he is honored as the 1995 Energy Champion.
- Thomas Clifford, President of UND from 1971 to 1992, is honored as the EERC’s fifth
Energy Champion. Through his visionary leadership and recognition of the potential
for commercial development of energy and environmental technologies, he set the stage
for a brighter economic future for North Dakota. His association with UND spanned
more than 50 years, and he served more years at the University than any other full-time
employee. In 1983, the EERC became part of UND under then-President Clifford’s tenure.
He is credited with having the wisdom and foresight to understand what the EERC meant
to the University and its potential for economic development and
- Senator Kent Conrad has been among our nation’s leaders in shaping American energy policy, serving as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and as Vice Chairman of the Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Power. Recognizing the enormous potential of markets in Eastern Europe and the Pacific Rim, he has worked relentlessly and tirelessly to create opportunities for the export of North Dakota’s energy and environmental technologies to those markets. Senator Conrad has been a speaker and a participant in such important EERC events as the biennial SynOps Conferences, the Low-Rank Fuels Symposium, and the April 1992 Eastern European Energy and Environmental Conference in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The EERC greatly values its close working relationship with Senator Conrad and his efforts to base national energy and environmental policy on sound scientific information. To show our appreciation for Senator Conrad’s dedication, determination, and support for the EERC and the state of North Dakota, we are proud to recognize him as the Center’s fourth recipient of the Energy Champion Award.
- John MacFarlane, President and Chief Executive Officer of Otter Tail Power Company, is an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary personal commitment to energy and environmental research and development programs. Under his leadership, Otter Tail Power Company has been among the most progressive industrial sponsors of the EERC’s research programs, including Project Sodium; the Western Fly Ash Research, Development, and Data Center; groundwater-monitoring programs; the Circulating Fluidized-Bed Combustion Program; and others. These research efforts will potentially lead to lower operating costs for utilities, thus helping to hold down electrical energy costs to residents of the upper plains states. In addition to his support of coal-related research, John has shown his commitment to renewable energy technologies and regional economic development. Through an ongoing commitment of personal time, financial gifts, and genuine involvement, John has demonstrated his support for the EERC, the School of Engineering and Mines, and UND. For this exceptional personal and corporate dedication and commitment, the EERC is proud to proclaim John MacFarlane as an Energy Champion Award recipient.
- Conrad Aas, Assistant Manager of Research at Northern States Power Company (NSP) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has made outstanding contributions to the advancement of energy technology and to the energy industry in North Dakota. He has actively initiated sponsorship of a variety of energy-related research projects at UND, including ground-coupled heat pump systems and monitoring background solar and wind energy, as well as Project Sodium and the Western Fly Ash Research, Development, and Data Center projects involving enhanced efficiency in coal combustion and ash management studies. These projects have provided excellent research opportunities for UND faculty, staff, and students, while helping put NSP at the forefront of technology development in the electric utility industry. Conrad Aas has continually demonstrated the unique ability to shape a research concept to fit the goals and interests of not only NSP, but also of the electric utility industry as a whole. This perception and foresight, as well as the level of personal dedication to research programs, make him a model Energy Champion, and the Energy Research Center is proud to present him with the Energy Champion Award.
- Senator Mark Andrews, a member of the Appropriations Committee and a strong supporter of fossil energy programs and the federal coal research program, is an extremely deserving recipient of the newly established Energy Champion Award, which has been initiated to honor and thank those individuals who make outstanding contributions to the advancement of energy technology and the energy industry in North Dakota. Senator Andrews has been very involved with several areas at the Energy Research Center, including the jet fuel study and the Chemcoal project, and he has provided generous support for transitional funding during the Center’s defederalization process through his work on the Appropriations Committee. The Senator’s strong belief that the federal coal research program will provide long-term benefits to the American consumer as the result of more efficient utilization of coal, reduced environmental impacts, and availability of substitutes for expensive oil and gas has been very apparent in his ongoing support, and the Energy Research Center is proud to recognize his achievements and foresight as setting outstanding precedents for the initial Energy Champion.