The ‘Watchdog’ Has It Wrong: DWP Investment in Children’s Museum is a Bargain

(Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, in a post here on CityWatch, Jack Humphreville took LADWP to task for funding it approved for an educational exhibit about water and power that will be part of the Discovery Science Center LA. Ron Nichols, LADWP General Manager provided this response to CityWatch.)
Jack Humphreville and I agree on many matters when it comes to LADWP, but his objection to LADWP providing funding for an educational exhibit about water and power at the Discovery Science Center is an issue on which he and I really strongly disagree. 
We are increasing our energy efficiency and our water conservation programs significantly because both of these types of programs are more cost effective than building or buying new power supplies or importing water through water purchases from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD).  
Studies have shown time and again that a change in customer awareness and attitude is key to getting people to change their behavior in energy and water use. Children have a profound influence over home attitudes on matters such as wise use of energy, water and recycling. 
In my prior career, I had some 75 people in my firm that did nothing but energy efficiency work. I learned through professional experts in my firm that educating children about where energy comes from, how it can be used more wisely, and why that is important changes family attitudes about how they use energy and water.  This is particularly true in lower income communities. 
The National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado has done numerous studies in this area as well.  The amount that DWP is committing to Discovery Science Center LA is proportionate to our share of the floor space in that building.  That money is being leveraged with new market tax credits.  
Plus a good portion of the investment goes not just to the share of the building itself, but for the interactive, hands-on displays for children that will teach them about energy efficiency, renewable energy, where our water comes from and how to use water more wisely.  
Between energy efficiency and water conservation, we spend over $150 million each year.  That budget includes education and outreach on these programs. A one-time payment for these exhibits of $3.9 million is equal to an annual capitalized  revenue requirement of about $300,000/yr, or 2 tenths of 1 percent of our annual energy and water conservation budget to educate LA kids about these important concepts.  I call that a bargain. 
(Ron Nichols is the General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power …
Vol 10 Issue 102
Pub: Dec 21, 2012