For Immediate Release

December 13, 2018

The Plains, OH – Rural Action is pleased to announce that UpGrade Ohio has become a part of Rural Action, increasing the organization’s capacity to work in the sustainable energy sector. Upgrade formed in 2014 as a special project of the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC). Upgrade Ohio, worked in Athens and the surrounding counties to connect people with local resources to reduce energy use and to access renewable energy solutions.

Over the summer, the Boards of both organizations entered into an agreement for Upgrade to become part of Rural Action, and that process is now complete.

“For many years, Rural Action has supported the transition to clean and renewable energy through a number of projects and initiatives including a member-led energy committee. Smart and sustainable energy solutions are a priority for our membership and we are pleased that we now have increased capacity to work in this sector and deepen our commitment to a clean energy future for this region,” said Rural Action CEO, Debbie Phillips.

Much of Upgrade Ohio’s work will continue as Rural Action’s newest program, Sustainable Energy Solutions (SES). Through SES, Rural Action will work to support initiatives that accelerate clean energy development in Appalachian Ohio, focusing on efforts that scale up energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation initiatives.

“I want to thank everyone who has supported the work of UpGrade Ohio over the years. We are extremely proud of the many successful projects that laid a strong foundation for clean energy transition in Appalachian Ohio–enabling many homeowners, businesses, and local governments to achieve energy savings and actualize their renewable energy goals. Joining Rural Action will help us scale up community-based clean energy programming and grow collaborative partnerships and new initiatives. I am excited to continue this important work as part of Rural Action’s team.” stated Sarah Conley- Ballew. Ballew served as UpGrade Ohio’s Executive Director and now serves as Rural Action’s Sustainable Energy Solutions Program Director.

During its tenure, UpGrade Ohio had several significant achievements including:

  • Competing in the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP) through 2015 and 2016 as the official organization for Athens County. Through this effort, they helped the county reduce energy usage by nearly 3 percent resulting in $5 million dollars in collective savings across and propelling local efforts into the national spotlight.
  • Working with Ohio University Credit Union to provide 0% interest loans through a hybrid and electric vehicle loan program. Through the program, 71 loans were issued.
  • Installing seven Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations around Athens County.
  • Spearheading a community aggregation education campaign in partnership with SOPEC, in which they worked with Mayors and other local leaders across southeast Ohio to educate residents about community energy aggregation.

Since the transition began, Ballew has been working with partner organizations and Rural Action staff to identify new strategies and areas of work. Additionally, she would like input from community members “I am eager to hear feedback from the community on which projects matter most, and how community members would like to participate in achieving clean energy goals in our region.” Said Ballew. Sarah Conley-Ballew can be reached at 740-677-4047 ext. 11 or

Rural Action is a regional community development organization with a 21-county footprint working with members and community leaders on a range of quality of life, environmental, and economic projects across rural Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in socially, financially, and environmentally sustainable ways. Learn more about Rural Action at


Alexandria Polanosky
Media and Communications Director
740-677-4047 ext. 140