When you know, you know. Sarah Spence of the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum has known practically her entire life that public service was in her future, and she’s living that future today.
From a very young age, Sarah was in parades and door-knocking for candidates because it was all in the family. Her mother was a county party official and would cart Sarah along with her even before she could walk. Those years spent with her mom built a foundational love of public service in her. She found her true calling after working as an administrative aide for the Ohio Senate as she became ever more passionate about figuring out how to make policy changes that would impact people and businesses for the better. Sarah says of that time, “I would get phone calls from constituents with issues that I’d get to spend time researching solutions for them and then navigating them through some state agency process to get the positive outcome we were hoping for.”
Additionally, that time solidified for Sarah how much influence the government has in our daily lives. “I’ve become a big proponent of telling family, friends, strangers on the street, just how important it is to use your voice to go vote – but not just grab a party’s slate card and vote, but really take some time to get to know the candidates and issues on your ballot and how they would impact the things in your life that are most important to you – then vote accordingly”, Sarah encourages.
From its inception, Sarah has been involved with the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum (OHCEF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 2015 to advocate for a diverse, all-of-the-above Ohio energy portfolio – one that includes not only existing sources of traditional energy generation but one that also seeks to expand the development of clean and renewable energy sources through conservative principles. OHCEF is a member of the Conservative Energy Network (CEN), a 501(c)(3) non-profit coalition of 21 state-based conservative clean energy organizations. The network works to advance policy solutions that emphasize market competition, consumer choice, property rights, and innovation.
Sarah joined the leadership council of OHCEF when it was formed in 2015. At the time, there were lots of energy policies being discussed at the state level, but no conservative-leaning organizations were actively involved in talking about renewable energy policies, and a change was needed. So three state-based organizations were created – Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina – all with the goal of giving conservatives a voice in clean energy policy. The network grew into 21 states over the next five years.
When asked what she loves about OHCEF, Sarah stated, “The best part of being a part of the creation of OHCEF and watching it grow has been seeing the impact the organization has had in such a short amount of time. A lot of it has been keeping really bad ideas from harming clean energy growth in the state, but there have been positive wins as well. We’re excited that Ohio has a policy for net metering that allows homeowners to install solar panels and get credit for the energy they produce. We were also successful in helping get legislation through that allows homeowners in HOAs to place solar on their properties, and look forward to seeing that become law in September 2022.”
Today, OHCEF is engaged in public education of community solar and allowing it in Ohio. Community solar is that sweet spot of giving more Ohioans access to solar energy through a subscription to a small project, while not taking up a lot of land space like a utility-scale-sized project. It gives people who rent, don’t have a suitable roof, or for one reason or another can’t install solar panels on their own homes the opportunity to use solar energy that’s created from a nearby solar array. Ohio does not currently allow for community solar in the majority of places in Ohio, so we’re working to change that.
We’ve loved hearing about the progress Sarah and OHCEF have been making in our communities. We hope they continue to grow in both size and impact on Ohio’s energy policy.
Though Sarah loves “nerding” over energy policy, she can be found with her head in a book, watching her favorite sports, or outside hiking and kayaking around the state. She loves exploring new places with her family and friends or unwinding with her 15-year-old tabby, Amun-Ra.
Sarah’s advice to those looking to find a coworking community of their own is, “Definitely take advantage of space tours – it really gives you a great feel for the space and the people you’ll be interacting with most. While you may think you’ve found a great place with that online search, it can’t give you insight into the energy and quality of people at the space.”
If you’ve been looking for a space to call your own, make sure to schedule a tour at a Haven Collective close to you. We look forward to meeting you. Plus, you’ll get to cowork with Sarah Spence. Make sure to check out OHCEF and sign up for its newsletter to stay informed.