Originally published on Jan. 3, 2017, in The Athens Messenger – Samantha Nelson, staff journalist
Not only was Saturday the last day of 2016, but it was also the last day of the semifinalist competition for the Georgetown University Energy Prize. One of those semifinalists was Upgrade Athens County, a local organization that promotes energy efficiency throughout Athens County.
The Georgetown University Energy Prize competition was designed to spur communities nationwide to improve their energy efficiency. Communities around the nation submitted plans to participate in the challenge, and 50 semifinalists were chosen to compete in a two-year competition in order to reduce their utility-supplied energy consumption.
Upgrade Athens County was formed for the competition.
“It really catalyzed an organization to be created,” said Mathew Roberts, the information and outreach director for Upgrade Athens County.
With the two-year competition over, Upgrade Athens County must wait to hear if they are one of the finalists for the competition. The final stage for the energy prize, which is when finalists and winners are determined, will last from January to June 2017, according to the Energy Prize’s website.
Roberts said the organization will probably hear who the 10 finalists are in February or March. If Athens County makes it as a finalist, they must then submit their plans how they would use the grand prize of $5 million if they won the competition.
The money would go to the Athens County Commissioners and must be used for energy efficiency projects, according to Roberts.
Even though the competition is over, Upgrade Athens County isn’t slowing down their efforts to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in Athens County; in fact, they are looking to spread it.
Upgrade Athens County is a project of Upgrade Ohio, which works to connect people with local resources on how to reduce energy use and access renewable energy resources, according to the Upgrade Athens County website. While Upgrade Athens County has a local focus, Upgrade Ohio is a movement that can spread to other communities.
According to a column Roberts wrote for The Athens NEWS, Upgrade Ohio, in a partnership with the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council, will use a $100,000 USDA Renewable Energy Development Assistance grant “to conduct solar, geothermal and biogas digestion site assessments for up to 100 agricultural producers and local businesses in an eight-county region.”
Those counties are Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton and Washington.
The organization will also possibly participate in the Solar in Your Community Challenge, an 18-month prize competition aiming to expand solar electricity access. The challenge is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative and administered by The State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute.
Roberts said nothing is for certain yet, but the organization will be turning in an early application by its deadline on Friday.
*Update: UpGrade Ohio has been accepted to compete in the Solar in Your Community Challenge. Learn more about our project here: http://www.solarinyourcommunity.org/en/challenge/solar-in-your-community-teams/1/teams/view/1762
Roadmap Challenge link: https://www.crowdrise.com/upgrade-ohio-roadmap2017