A turbine at the Geysers power plant in California generates electricity from geothermal sources.

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Demand Response and the Environment

The benefit of demand response isn't just in the economic cost savings, but also in environmental costs. While there is no definitive research yet on how demand response systems will -- or won't -- impact the environment, there are some positive effects that can be expected.

First, many field experts assume that if people are given a choice between conserving or not, they will choose to conserve because it's a feel-good, green contribution.

Beyond possible psychological effects, demand response brings about some very real environmental results. While demand response technology shifts power from one source to another, it also functions to lower the amount of power consumed. Less power consumed in turn lowers the levels of pollutants generated. Without demand response, systems used to heat and cool homes across the United States release 150 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO­2­), a known greenhouse gas, into the environment [source: U.S. Department of Energy], and about 30,000 Americans die every year from the pollution caused during electricity production [source: Solar Energy International].

­With demand response, the 21st century smart grid could be a green grid. Plants that gen­erate peak power often also generate high levels of pollutants. A smart grid is more easily capable of handling power sources that may be intermittent in intensity and may not always be on hand. When demand for power peaks, a smart grid would be able to shift the fuel type it uses, balancing fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.

­Next time you're watching television, cooking dinner and doing a load of laundry, take a look at the clock. Is it peak time?