February 2020 Connections
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Leadership & Achievement

Green Energy Ohio recently announced the winners of our annual Green Achievement Awards and our two Lifetime Leadership Awards. They are an extraordinary group of individuals and organizations whose achievements are worthy of celebration. Their selection led me to think about the many ways we measure leadership.  

Often, leadership involves taking a position that is not widely embraced, and moving the idea to the forefront. Leaders are frequently visionaries who see possibilities where others do not. However, in addition to having a vision, true leaders make things happen. They take an idea from concept to reality. That process is rarely linear – it involves ups and downs and twists and turns that rival a Cedar Point roller coaster. Sometimes their work yields results that others later undo. Does this sound familiar? Ohio was in a position of leadership when we passed the Renewable Portfolio Standard and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard in 2008. Since then we have been on a roller coaster ride ending with House Bill 6 and the dismantling of programs that put Ohio among the clean energy leaders. 

The good news is that individuals, institutions, corporations, and communities are stepping up to ensure progress is made. Our award winners represent the best of them and each has advanced both the vision and the reality of clean energy in Ohio. I encourage you to join us on April 17 to celebrate their accomplishments and be inspired by their commitment.

As GEO enters its third decade, we pledge to continue our leadership role in education and outreach on sustainable energy issues, and to serve our members and supporters with innovative programming, timely information, and a strong network of advocates. We are very proud of the achievements of the last twenty years, but we believe that the best is yet to come!  
Jane Harf, Executive Director
The Green Energy Ohio Annual Awards Ceremony and Reception

The Green Energy Ohio Annual Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held on Friday, April 17 from 5:30-8:30 at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden!

We recently announced the winners of our Green Achievement Awards:
  • University of Dayton ~ Green Achievement in Academia
  • Fifth Third Bank ~ Green Achievement in Business
  • City of Cincinnati ~ Green Achievement for Government
  • Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden ~ Green Achievement for a Nonprofit

Please join us in celebrating their success! You can register here for tickets and tables. All registrations include parking and admission to the Zoo two hours prior to closing time . Enjoy a spring afternoon with your favorite Zoo residents and an evening of celebration with fellow advocates for a clean energy future!
We are starting a new feature this month as part of the 20 th Anniversary celebration – interviews with former Board members conducted by current Board members. What better way to get a perspective on the past and the future at the same time? To start, we asked new GEO Board member Jake Kuss to interview GEO founding Board member, former Board President, and his father, Greg Kuss. Here it is – enjoy!
When : February 13, 2020
Where: On the road, avoiding the snow on I-70 between Springfield and Columbus

J ake Kuss: All right, dad — what made you join GEO?

Greg Kuss: I’ve been interested in renewable energy since the mid-70s, but more recently, I joined Ohio Renewable Energy Organization (OREO) sometime in the ‘90s. OREO merged with SEED (Sustainable Energy and Environmental Development), out of Cleveland, to form a state-wide organization, Green Energy Ohio, in 2000. I originally joined OREO because you came home from elementary school with a request to donate money for a solar array to be installed at Worthington Bluffsview Elementary School.

JK: One of the first school-based, solar installations in Ohio. You mentioned GEO’s founding. We’re celebrating 20 years this year. What’s your favorite GEO memory?

GK: It’s the fact that we actually got something going. We started having educational workshops all around Ohio. We knew we were involved in something important. Soon, GEO's simple grassroots beginning gained traction and our membership grew. We had board members from all over the state and an annual Ohio Solar Tour. We also recognized champions around the state with annual awards for individuals and businesses impacting Ohio in green, sustainable ways. 

JK: That’s great — a lot of these initiatives have grown and still live on. What do you hope for the future of GEO?

GK: I was born in Ohio. I love Ohio, but it's not the most progressive state — H.B. 6 is proof of that. So my hope for GEO is to keep spreading our positive message. It would appear that the youth of the world see the future clearer than the adults. In the past, GEO spent most of its bandwidth educating Ohioans about the benefits of green energy. Now, along with education, Ohio needs more sustainably-minded political advocates. Unlike any other time in our history, societal issues, and how we power society, are more tied together than ever before. These are historic times that call for tough, forward-thinking decisions. I believe Green Energy Ohio still has an important part to play in shaping these decisions.  

JK: I couldn’t agree more. Thanks, dad. You laid the groundwork — we’ll continue to move forward from here. 
Green Energy Ohio is receiving many requests to participate in Earth Day celebrations around the state and we will be posting them on the GEO website at Earth Day Ohio . We need volunteers to be able to cover all the great events that are being planning to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day!

If you would like to represent GEO at a local event or invite GEO to an event in your community, please contact Outreach@GreenEnergyOhio.org .
Change Happens from the Bottom-Up
by Allison DePage

If you follow our member spotlights, you know that they generally focus on senior leaders in large companies. This month, we are featuring a person who has followed a different path, but who has made an unmistakable contribution to his community and to advancing the clean energy message. 

Richard Downs, 40-year advocate for sustainability, firmly believes change does not happen from the top-down, but rather the bottom-up. Richard has a natural gift Richard to educate people on the environmental crisis our planet is facing due to the use of fossil fuels. As a result of this passion, he has built a strong base of environmental activists on a local level.

When asked why we should care about supporting renewable energy and sustainable initiatives, he argues that “our planet is at stake.” He wants his grandchildren to be able to appreciate the beauty and benefits of the natural environment and Richard believes that environmental degradation is preventable. 

To read the rest of the Richard Downs profile , click here.
Using renewable energy as a tool for economic development and job creation was the theme of the national SOLAR 2007 conference hosted by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and Green Energy Ohio at the Cleveland Convention Center in July 2007. After submitting the winning bid in 2004, GEO staff, dedicated volunteers, and generous sponsors spent over two years planning the successful event, showcasing the Green City on the Blue Lake and visiting some of its iconic landmarks such as the Great Lakes Science Center, the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, and Jacobs Field.

SOLAR 2007 was the 36 th Annual National Solar Energy Conference, an annual gathering of sustainable energy professionals, including business leaders, scientists, engineers, architects, policymakers, educators, and utility representatives. The agenda included a technical panels, dealer & installer training sessions, workshops, tours of renewable energy sites, consumer-oriented presentations, job-recruitment opportunities, and a Renewable Products and Services Exhibit Hall with over 160 exhibitors. Presenters from national nonprofit organizations, federal and state government, the business community, academia, and renowned research institutions addressed accomplishments and challenges in their efforts to advance the industry sector and ensure economic benefits.

To view the entire program from SOLAR 2007, click here .

This year's 49th Annual National Solar Conference will be held at George Washington University in Washington, DC from June 23-26.
USDA Rural Energy for America Program Funding for Ohio

We often focus on the progress that urban and suburban areas in Ohio have made in renewable energy use and gains in energy efficiency, but Ohio's rural communities are also making great strides. The USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) program is a source of funding for energy projects in rural Ohio. USDA Rural Development is now accepting applications for the REAP grants and loan guarantees, with the next application deadline on March 31. This application deadline is for projects which request $20,000 or less and for projects which request up to $500,000.

REAP is designed to assist rural, small, for-profit businesses and agricultural producers install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements to their operations. These types of improvements can help eligible applicants control energy costs and improve the overall profitability of their operations. The grant program can cover up to 25% of the eligible project costs while the loan guarantee can cover up to 75% of the eligible project costs. Grants can range from $1,500 to $500,000 with loan guarantees up to $25,000,000.

Examples of the assistance provided in previous years include:
  • A grant for $49,950 to assist a North Central Ohio waste treatment and disposal business install a 124.74kW roof mounted solar array which offsets 90% of the company’s annual electrical usage. The expected annual electrical cost savings for the company will exceed $15,000.
  • A grant for $19,285 to assist a Northwestern Ohio manufacturing company replace outdated and inefficient florescent light fixtures within their manufacturing facility with state-of-the-art LED light fixtures and controls. The anticipated kWh saved will exceed 75% while the estimated financial payback will be less than 4 years based upon the energy savings alone.
  • A grant for $15,250 to assist a farmer in Western Ohio replace an outdated and inefficient grain dryer. The expected energy savings will provide a return on this investment of less than 10 years.

Additional information can be found at: Rural Energy for America Program and by contacting Randy Monhemius, Ohio Business Program Specialist,
USDA, Rural Development at randy.monhemius@usda.gov .
Once again, we are featuring a film as this month's climate selection. Before the Flood , presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on his journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction. He also discovers a calculated disinformation campaign orchestrated by powerful special interests working to confuse the public about the urgency of the growing climate crisis.
Before the Flood  presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the disruption of life on our planet. Beyond the steps we can take as individuals, the film urges viewers to push their elected officials in supporting the use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power.
To continue the climate change conversation, plan to attend one of three upcoming screenings of The Human Element hosted by GEO and our regional partners.

Wednesday, March 11 : Sponsored by the Greater Akron Innovation Network for Sustainability (GAINS). The event will take place from 6:00 pm-8:00 pm at the Trailhead at Cascade Lofts, 21 West North Street in Akron.

Monday, March 16 : Sponsored by the Oxford Seniors Ecology Club. The event will take place from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Senior Center, 922 Tollgate Drive in Oxford.

Friday, April 24 : Co-sponsored by Hathaway Brown School and Cleveland Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Education. The event will take place at Hathaway Brown’s Ahuja Auditorium, 19600 North Park Blvd. in Shaker Heights. Doors will open at 6:30 pm, with the screening to begin promptly at 7:00 pm. Stay after the show for an educational reception and refreshments!

If your organization or community is interested in a screening of the Human Element, please contact Director@GreenEnergyOhio.org