The partnership between the Sustainable Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) and Rural Action is one that was destined to flourish. They have a history that extends far beyond the eight years that SOPEC has been its own organization. And this year, their dedication to renewable energy was honored through recognizing SOPEC with Rural Action’s 2022 Sustainable Partnership Award.


SOPEC is a regional council of governments that helps provide sustainable energy solutions to municipalities and communities around Ohio. Their goal is simple: help communities reach their sustainable energy goals. SOPEC offers services like free solar assessments, and after the 2015 launch of SOPEC’s Electric Aggregation Program, SOPEC has been able to bring sustainable energy solutions to Ohioans across the state.

Mat Roberts, the director of marketing at SOPEC, says that before he was working with SOPEC, he was working at UpGrade Ohio. Founded in 2016, UpGrade Ohio worked toward the very same goals that SOPEC had their eye on: a strong, clean energy sector in Ohio.

Sarah Conley-Ballew, who is now the Sustainable Energy Solutions Director at Rural Action, says it was when UpGrade Ohio merged with Rural Action that things started to take off.

“UpGrade Ohio, a standalone nonprofit that I founded in 2016, couldn’t sail its ship alone,” Sarah said, “so in 2018, it merged with Rural Action – which was good timing and synergistic because Rural Action’s membership wanted to do more work on energy efficiency and clean energy.”

Since joining SOPEC, Mat says the collaboration between the two organizations has been steady, and being awarded Rural Action’s 2022 Sustainable Partnership Award captures all the quiet collaborative moments throughout the years.

“SOPEC and Rural Action have been working collaboratively for a while,” Mat said, “I think that SOPEC and Rural Action, working together, could really put Southeast Ohio on the map. This is just the beginning of the work our two organizations will be able to get done together.”

Mat says SOPEC is focused on increasing the diversity of the groups they serve. Currently, SOPEC serves twenty-one member communities – twenty municipalities extending from Athens to Dayton, and one political subdivision, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.

Click here to more about SOPEC, and our other 2022 Sustainability Award winners!

Sustainability Awards