02/26/18

Students Partner with the Ohio Environmental Council to Explore Clean Energy Choices

Fisher College of Business students worked on a semester-long clean energy choice project alongside the Ohio Environmental Council to help consumers understand sustainable energy choices and choose a renewable energy supplier.

The Personal Leadership and Team Effectiveness class helps build students’ awareness of local community issues while increasing their ability to positively influence these issues through teamwork and project management. Each group within the class consulted with a local nonprofit organization.

“I originally took this class because I wanted to gain real-world experience with a nonprofit in the Columbus area while also developing my leadership skills,” says Kayla Snider, a senior studying business marketing. “I couldn’t have been happier with the OEC.” (photo: (from left to right) Damon Webb, Kayla Snider, Emily Moon, Connor Coup, Colton Ruck and Trish Demeter after the project presentation.)

She explains that a major lack of public knowledge and trust regarding renewable energy companies prompted the OEC, which frequently received consumer calls for recommendations on specific companies, to seek more extensive research on the subject.

“The project we completed was multi-faceted and incorporated background research, marketing plans and project management strategies,” says Snider. She and fellow students created a presentation that outlined research on AEP-certified renewable power companies in Ohio. They also developed a tool that “graded” each company on a scale that included various factors relevant to consumers. Finally, the group outlined a marketing plan to effectively publicize the information and resources to consumers.

“The Ohio Environmental Council was selected because its project addressed an issue that impacts our community,” says Jen Shanahan, leadership initiative instructor and program manager for Fisher’s Leadership Initiative. “This project seemed a challenging yet surmountable project for our student team, comprising both research and analysis. I was very impressed with their dedication and proposed solution.”

“We do plan on building on the students' research to eventually feature the ranking or scoring tool on our website,” says Trish Demeter, vice president of policy for the OEC, whose mission is to secure healthy air, land and water for all Ohioans.

Demeter served as adviser to the student team throughout the semester. The student project reflected an actual goal included in the OEC’s 2017-2021 strategic plan, she says. The initiative is to “empower Ohioans to make more sustainable energy choices as a way to drive electricity providers to invest more heavily in renewable resources such as wind and solar power,” says Demeter.

Ohio is considered an “energy choice” state, which means consumers have the ability to choose what company they purchase their electric supply from. The Fisher project was designed to help the OEC understand and define “green energy” packages offered by energy suppliers. They hope to convey information about locations, emissions profiles and price comparisons to consumers.

“The specific project we completed for the OEC opened my eyes to the world of energy providers,” says Snider, “and gave me information I’ll need in the future to choose a clean energy provider that I can trust. It is amazing to look back from start to finish and see how I developed alongside my peers.”

Snider and peers also had the opportunity to tour the OEC’s headquarters and meet the managing director. At the end of the course, the group presented its final project at a showcase in front of Fisher College of Business Dean Anil K. Makhija and other esteemed faculty members.

Through the partnership, the OEC offered one group member, Emily Moon, an internship for this semester. She will work on various projects relating to media tactics and state policy research for the OEC energy policy team and Campaigns and Communications Center.

“The OEC's partnerships with OSU have been incredibly valuable. We've been incredibly impressed with all the students we've had the pleasure of working with,” says Demeter. “We look forward to more opportunities in the future!”

Tristen Spahr is a student communications assistant at the Office of Energy and Environment.