Grand Forks Sen. Ray Holmberg has become a member of an exclusive club among energy supporters in North Dakota.

The Energy and Environmental Research Center presented Holmberg with the Energy Champion Award on Tuesday morning.

The Energy Champion Award, created in 1986, honors individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary personal commitment to energy and environmental research and development. The award has been given 10 other times.

“It’s a very elite group of folks who have won it in the past,” said Tom Erickson, CEO of the EERC.

Most recently, Holmberg secured funding to create the State Research Center. The center will receive $5 million per biennium to conduct exploratory, transformational and innovative research that advances future energy opportunities to benefit North Dakota’s economy and environment.

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Under the legislation, 1% of oil and gas production and oil extraction tax revenues are allocated to fund SERC.

“I can’t say enough about how critical that is, not only to the EERC but I think to the state and citizens of North Dakota,” said Erickson, who will be stepping down as the CEO of the EERC later this summer to take over the State Energy Research Center.

The award also recognizes Holmberg’s efforts to bring greater health care to western North Dakota, his work on infrastructure and unmanned aerial systems in the state.

“They all relate in some way, shape or form to energy,” Erickson said.

Holmberg said the research money will allow the EERC to conduct exploratory research, which the organization hasn’t been able to do over the past few years because of lack of federal funding.

“Just like in the Legislature, you surround yourself with smart people and you let them breathe and that’s what (this money) will let them do,” Holmberg said. “This allows them to be creative and delve into areas like they used to.”

Though he was not present for the award ceremony, UND interim President Joshua Wynne issued remarks praising Holmberg’s work on higher education and energy in the Legislature.

“In his more than four decades in the North Dakota Senate, he has been a leader in the field of energy and in higher education,” Wynne said. “We the citizens of this state are grateful for his contributions over the years to higher education, energy and efforts to make the state a better place to live for the citizens of North Dakota.”

Wynne also spoke about Holmberg’s work with the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the senator’s support of the Healthcare Initiative Plan.

Past recipients are Sen. John Hoeven, Michael Jones, Sen. Byron Dorgan, Thomas Bechtel, Everett Sondreal, Thomas Clifford, Sen. Kent Conrad, John McFarlane, Conrad Aas and Sen. Mark Andrews.