By TOM PLANT July 10, 2013
Aeltracker.org is a great tool that allows the public to follow energy legislation.
As a former legislator, I know that when you’re crafting legislation, sometimes you feel like you’re re-inventing the wheel. We all want to promote legislation that will achieve our objectives, but determining the most effective mechanism for doing so is a daunting challenge. Surely, someone must have introduced legislation on this topic before, right?
Enter the Advanced Energy Legislation Tracker, or AEL Tracker for short (aeltracker.org). The AEL Tracker is a new, free service spearheaded by Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy (the Center) and by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute (AEE). Finally, there is a resource to identify all energy legislation introduced around the country using an easy and adaptable interface.
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter established the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU when he left office in 2011. Gov. Ritter is nationally recognized as a visionary leader on energy policy, signing 57 bills that moved Colorado into its current leadership position in advanced energy.
I was fortunate to serve as Gov. Ritter’s energy office director for four years, and today I work for both the Center and for the AEE, promoting good state energy policy around the country. I can tell you, I use this tool on a daily basis.
The AEL Tracker is useful to legislators and their staff to identify legislation and then link to the language of the bill. But it also contains a robust set of capabilities that makes it an indispensable tool for anyone working on or researching state activity on energy policy.
Let’s take an example. If you want to find all legislation introduced in the country concerning solar energy, you will find 333 bills: 48.5 percent of these deal directly with electricity generation, while 44.4 percent deal with financing. Finding that information took exactly 7 seconds. There’s also a geographic distribution map to show the number of bills meeting those criteria in each state.
Let’s drill down further. Maybe I want to limit that search to just New York. Some 52 bills meet those criteria. I see one, A5060, for which I’d like a little more information. When I click on the bill, I find that it has had five actions taken on it since being introduced on Feb. 15, 2013. Four versions of the bill are available through the AEL Tracker, including the latest version. There’s also a link to an article written at Fierce Energy about the bill, entitled “NY Senate commits to a ten year solar program extension.”
Furthermore, I see that the legislation has 63 sponsors. I can click on any of them and see their district information, plus a link to email the legislator directly.
All of this information took less than one minute to discover. Previously, this kind of information would have taken days of searching. But the Center and AEE have made the AEL Tracker available to anyone, free of charge, at aeltracker.org.
This is not only a valuable resource for legislators, but also for advocates of all stripes. Researchers will find the information invaluable. Journalists can use the tracker to identify trends and follow activity on legislation. Businesses can use the information to identify market opportunities and legislation worthy of support.
If the Center provided only this tool, it would be a revolutionary step forward for those following, researching, supporting and writing legislation. But as a dedicated research center, they dive into the data, providing analysis and identification of policy trends. Since launching the Tracker in May, the Center has published a paper on energy-efficiency legislative trends, and one on the more than 550 bills to develop financing mechanisms for energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.
Using the latest in application programming interface capabilities, mining the web for critical information on energy policy and then distilling this information into a resource anyone can use, Tracker opens the door for a free and unfettered exchange of policy information and the sharing of best practices throughout the country.
As a former prosecutor, Gov. Ritter likes to say, “It isn’t larceny if it’s a good idea.” The AEL Tracker is there to make productive thieves of us all.
Tom Plant is vice president, state policy, at AEE and senior policy advisor at the Center for New Energy Economy. Before serving Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter as head of the state’s energy office, Plant served in the Colorado state legislature for eight years.