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The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) hosted its 4th Annual “Energizing North Dakota” Partnership Summit May 21. This event serves as a forum for partners across energy industry sectors to discuss critical energy topics relating to North Dakota. The morning kicked off with North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness welcoming over 100 attendees, representing public utilities, private industry, government entities, and energy research experts.

The future of energy and the global connection was the overarching theme of discussions throughout the day. Keynote speaker Charles McConnell, Executive Director, Carbon Management and Energy Sustainability at the University of Houston, discussed the low-carbon future and reality of transitioning to that future.

“The market is asking for low-carbon energy, not only the government,” said McConnell. “As companies continue to drive innovation, future barrels of oil will be based not only on costs at the wellhead but also its lifespan, its carbon footprint, and the environmental responsibility of the operating companies.”

North Dakota Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford highlighted both energy’s vital role in the state’s economy and the state’s commitment to environmental stewardship and innovation through EERC-led projects such as iPIPE.

Paul Sukut, CEO of Basin Electric Power Cooperative, outlined the changing capacity portfolio of utility providers and the need for an all-of-the-above approach to meeting electricity demands. Brian Kroshus, Chairman of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, discussed meeting future energy needs and the importance of public perception regarding the energy industry.

A multidisciplinary discussion panel focused on the energy industry in 2030, specifically on society’s speed-of-change expectation versus the reality of balancing that change without putting excessive costs to customers or hindering economic growth. EERC Vice President for Strategic Partnerships John Harju moderated the panel of experts, which included Ron Ness, President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council; Jason Bohrer, President and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council; and Bill Sawyer, General Manager of Operations at ALLETE Clean Energy.

Charles Gorecki, Director of Subsurface Research & Development, outlined progress made toward advancing the goals developed during the 2017 Partnership Summit for North Dakota’s energy future. These goals include increasing the state’s daily oil production, eliminating pipeline leaks, capitalizing on the state’s synergies between agriculture and energy, maximizing the use of North Dakota natural gas and energy export opportunities, enhancing energy reliability and energy infrastructure, expanding the uses of lignite coal such as for enhanced oil recovery and the extraction of rare earth elements, and educating the world on energy and environmental topics. Gorecki also discussed ways to keep North Dakota and the United States a global energy leader through exploratory research on developing technologies, on which the EERC is able to focus some of its future efforts, thanks to the creation of the North Dakota State Energy Research Center in this recent 2019 legislative session.

“We are indebted to all of you in the room today for your support and faith in us,” said Gorecki as he addressed the attendees in the room. “We couldn’t be more humbled by the support given to us by the passing of SB 2249.”

“We have not only the opportunity but also the obligation to the citizens of North Dakota to adapt and prepare for the future,” said EERC CEO Tom Erickson. “Venues like this are important to enable collaboration on those opportunities.”