The California Energy Commission approved hiring a contractor to oversee how stimulus dollars are spent and gave the green light to the conversion of three peaker facilities into combined-cycle plants. “The Energy Commission recognizes the need to provide a system of oversight to help prevent fraud, waste and abuse,” said Energy Commission program manager Monica Rudman at a March 24 meeting. The contractor hired to oversee commission projects and programs funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is energy consulting firm KEMA. The firm is slated to be paid $4.1 million over the term of the agreement, which runs from April 1, 2010, to June 30, 2013, to monitor energy efficiency spending. KEMA is set to plan, design, and perform procedures to confirm that the appropriate end-use technologies are installed, that reported energy savings are accurate, and that programs are cost-effective, said Rudman. “This is incredibly important, that we be able to track the dollars, track the expenditures, but more importantly, track the results,” said Karen Douglas, CEC chair. Although the vote to approve was unanimous, commissioner Jim Boyd lamented that such a contact was necessary. “It’s a little bit sad commentary on human behavior today that we have to put $4.1 million into an effort like this,” he said. The first peaker modification project approved during this week’s meeting was an upgrade of the Tracy Power Plant, which began operations in June 2003 as a 169 MW simple cycle project. It is to be converted to a 314 MW combined-cycle gas plant. The proposed project would occupy a site on a 40-acre parcel in an unincorporated portion of San Joaquin County about 20 miles southwest of Stockton. The other two projects approved during the meeting are nearly identical. They are the upgrade of two 95 MW peaker plants--the Hanford Energy Park Peaker and the Henrietta Peaker Project--via the addition of two once-through steam generators, an air-cooled condenser, and a 25 MW steam turbine-generator at each location. The Hanford facility is located in Kings County, near the city of Hanford; the Henrietta facility’s about 25 miles away in rural Kings County, near the City of Lemoore. All three peaker plants are owned by GWF Energy, a Pittsburg, California, subsidiary of New Jersey-based diversified energy company PSEG Global.