The Flexible Demand Opportunity

How Smarter Electricity Use Can Support a Clean Energy Future

Julie McNamara

Published Jan 22, 2020

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Despite the magnitude of the clean energy transition underway, our outdated electricity system still prioritizes fossil fuels, not renewables. That means we’re relying on natural gas, coal, and oil more than we need to, and getting less out of clean energy than we could. And we pay for it—in wasted renewables, unnecessary pollution, and excessive grid-transition costs.

To best take advantage of renewable resources like wind and solar, we need to transition to an electricity system optimized for clean energy. One tool to facilitate that process is flexible demand. With flexible demand, small adjustments in how and when we use electricity can help maximize the grid’s clean energy use while reducing the need for fossil fuels and costly associated investments.

With renewables racing online and significant new electricity loads like electric vehicles on the near horizon, the time is ripe for deploying tools that put renewables first. This issue brief urges policy makers, regulators, and utilities to recognize and value flexible demand and suggests ways to remove hurdles to its mobilization and implementation.



McNamara, Julie. 2020. The Flexible Demand Opportunity: How Smarter Electricity Use Can Support a Clean Energy Future. Cambridge, MA: Union of Concerned Scientists.

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