To avoid photodamage, photosynthetic organisms have developed mechanisms to evade or dissipate excess energy. Lumen overacidification caused by light-induced electron transport triggers quenching of excited chlorophylls and dissipation of excess energy into heat. In higher plants participation of the PsbS protein as the sensor of low lumenal pH was clearly demonstrated. Although light-dependent energy quenching is a property of all photosynthetic organisms, large differences in amplitude and kinetics can be observed thus raising the question whether a single common mechanism is in action. We performed a detailed study of PsbS expression/accumulation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and investigated its accumulation in other algae and plants. We showed that PsbS cannot be detected in Chlamydomonas under a wide range of growth conditions. Overexpression of the endogenous psbs gene showed that the corresponding protein could not be addressed to the thylakoid membranes. Survey of different unicellular green algae showed no accumulation of anti-PsbS reactive proteins differently from multicellular species. Nevertheless, some unicellular species exhibit high energy quenching activity, suggesting that a PsbS-independent mechanism is activated. By correlating growth habitat and PsbS accumulation in different species, we suggest that during the evolution the light environment has been a determinant factor for the conservation/loss of the PsbS function.