LOGAN — A local organization is making moves toward clean energy in southeast Ohio.
The Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council, or SOPEC, is a nonprofit public organization that began in Athens County in 2014. But it’s actually made up by the people it’s serving – local governments, director of marketing Mathew Roberts said.
“SOPEC is local governments from around the region coming together as one entity,” Roberts said. “Its primary role is to be an aggregator, so it aggregates all of the eligible electricity load in all of the member communities for the purpose of buying electricity for the portion of their electricity bill.”
The reason SOPEC exists is because it can be difficult and time-consuming for an individual government to attempt to aggregate solo – however, pooling together with surrounding communities makes things easier.
SOPEC helps city governments, for example, the city of Athens, obtain things like electric public transit and “clean mobility options.”
But SOPEC serves more than Athens County. It has expanded into Gallia, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Washington and Hocking counties. It serves unincorporated communities, too.
“Our design for aggregation programs (creates) a community grant program,” Roberts said. “Every single community will get a grant from the organization. We work closely with local governments to try to figure out what the best use for that money is for the public good.”
Logan has been a SOPEC member since 2018. Currently, SOPEC is working on getting electric vehicle charging stations in downtown Logan.
“It’s a strategy to encourage people who have electric vehicles to explore the town,” Roberts said.
SOPEC also supports clean energy by matching its energy consumption with clean energy consumption, Roberts said. However, most of that clean energy is produced out-of-state, unlike locally produced electricity.
Roberts is hopeful that local clean energy will be available for usage soon. In the meantime, SOPEC provides free solar assessments to local businesses and agricultural producers.
“Solar is very cost effective now,” Roberts said. “If a business is planning to stay in business for a long time, they’re gonna use electricity, no doubt. A lot of solar systems nowadays are able to be paid off in full in seven to 10 years. All the electricity produced is free; most panels are warranted for 25 years. It’s a good investment decision.”
Solar power is also eligible for tax cuts and federal grants, Roberts said. Roberts knows that though solar may not be a first priority for businesses during the pandemic, SOPEC is there to help with consultations and questions. If a small business has roof space or ground space, they can utilize solar power.
“So many businesses may never get approached (for solar power), but we have the opportunity to have that early stage discussion with them,” Roberts said. “Sometimes they’re glad we showed up.”
More information on SOPEC and its work with the city of Logan can be found at www.sopec-oh.gov/rates/logan.