Using less electricity can reduce carbon pollution. And sometimes, simply changing when you turn on your dryer, air conditioner, or dishwasher, can do so too.

When demand on the electricity grid is high, additional power plants may need to be switched on to meet the demand. Firing up a power plant is expensive for the utility. And, the backup plants tend to be older and more polluting.

So, to even out demand on the grid, many utilities across the U.S. offer dynamic pricing plans. That means they charge less for electricity at off-peak times. Some utilities even alert customers by text or e-mail when demand is expected to be high.

This encourages people to shift some of their energy use – for example, running the dishwasher or dryer overnight instead of in the evening.

Gulezian: “You don’t need to change your life dramatically. It’s small changes.”

That’s Sarah Gulezian with Elevate Energy, an Illinois nonprofit that runs two of these plans. She says the approach helps people save money. And …

Gulezian: “If you shift your use away from those higher price times, then the older dirtier power plants don’t need to be fired up so there’s environmental benefits as well.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Eileen Mignoni

Eileen Mignoni is a South Florida-based visual journalist who has been working on stories about science, the environment, and energy for nearly 10 years. In addition to her work at Yale Climate Connections,...