The California Energy Commission approved about $23 million in expenditures this week, including $7.7 million in contracts with the California Institute for Energy and Environment--a controversial research facility at University of California, Berkeley, sponsored by BP. The Energy Commission May 31 approved four CIEE contracts. The agreements are for projects developing distributed energy and solar hot water generation and to improve the efficiency of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and lighting systems. The vote was 3-0, with commissioner Carla Peterman recusing herself because she was employed within the last 12 months by a California Institute for Energy and Environment subsidiary. Peterman also recused herself from an action item approving the largest expenditure during the business meeting. That was a $4.9 million Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory contract to develop new technologies and standards to improve building and appliance efficiency. She was employed by the Berkeley lab from 2008 through August 2010. Since being appointed to the CEC board earlier this year, she has recused herself from voting on several agenda items related to the University of California, Berkeley, where she is working toward a doctorate in Energy and Resources. Also on the agenda was a proposal to modify the Calico project, a proposed 663 MW solar thermal facility that would sit on 4,600 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert. It was originally approved last December. On March 18, a subsidiary of developer K Road Power submitted paperwork to modify the project. \u201cThe commission\u2019s siting staff\u2019s preliminary review of the petition caused staff to determine that it would be appropriate to process the amendment as a major amendment, requiring committee oversight,\u201d Galen Lemei, an advisor to commissioner Karen Douglas, said. The proposed modifications include changing the technology from 663 MW of solar thermal Dish Stirling engines to 100 MW of Dish Stirling engines and 563 MW of single-axis tracker photovoltaic technology, plus the installation of a new access road to the site. Commission staff and the applicant say the amended project would have the same footprint and boundaries as the previously-approved version of the project.