Sustainable Energy Solutions

The Sustainable Energy Solutions Program works to catalyze clean energy development in Appalachian Ohio by supporting regional efforts to scale up energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation initiatives. We support the development of a clean energy economy that provides living wage jobs and the growth of a modern manufacturing sector that attracts and retains our skilled Appalachian workforce.

Our initiatives connect individuals, small businesses and local governments with resources and technical assistance to reduce energy use, access renewable energy incentives and opportunities, and incorporate clean transportation solutions. This new program initiative was established in 2018 through an organizational merger of Rural Action and UpGrade Ohio.

Appalachian Ohio has a rich history providing abundant energy resources to fuel the nation’s cities and towns. Generations of hard-working coal miners proudly supported the development of modern day America, but many communities have been left behind as the energy economy shifts away from fossil fuels in favor of cheaper and more flexible natural gas, solar and wind. As U.S. coal consumption continues to fall, power producers continue to shutter coal-fired units, impacting many Appalachian communities sustained economically by the industry.


Sarah Conley-Ballew, Program Director

Sarah Conley-Ballew serves as the Program Director of Sustainable Energy Solutions. She was the founding Executive Director of UpGrade Ohio (2015-2018). Sarah holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University (2015), and she has a Bachelor of Specialized Studies with a concentration in Social and Environmental Ecology from Ohio University (2004).

Sarah believes that her purpose is to serve as a catalyst for community development in Appalachian Ohio, demonstrating leadership in social and environmental sustainability projects. Prior to working on clean energy initiatives, she played a pivotal role in the development of the regional local food economy through her work as Athens Farmers Market Manager and as board Vice President of Community Food Initiatives. Turning her attention to energy sustainability is rooted in a strong interest to develop local solutions to global climate change.

Sarah lives with her husband and three wild children on nine beautiful acres in Athens County.

Organizational Partners and Affiliates