Why the economic slowdown may help prevent heatwave power outages

As the job market continues to struggle out of the recession, teenagers are finding it increasingly difficult to find summer employment.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: When we talk about heat on Marketplace we're usually reporting on hot debate going on -- like debt ceiling talks that are still unresolved. Or a company whose earnings are a little warmer than expected -- like AT&T, which just reported a 2.2 percent quarterly revenue increase.

But hot weather is the business news today. Because triple-digit heat has been baking the eastern and Midwestern parts of our country for days. Which means demand for electricity is, well, hot.

From steamy Washington, Marketplace's John Dimsdale has the story.


JOHN DIMSDALE: Air conditioners in many parts of the country are working all day and all night.

RAY DOTTER: This morning when I looked at the thermometer outside my house it was 78 degrees at 6 o'clock.

Ray Dotter lives outside Philadelphia. He also happens to work for the country's largest electricity transmission grid -- PJM Interconnection. PJM covers all the territory between Newark, N.J. to Richmond, Va. That's where temperatures today and tomorrow will be a 100 or more degrees. Dotter expects today's electricity demand will be close to an all-time record. And yet, he says, it could have been worse.

DOTTER: If the economy had recovered more than it has, you'd see even higher uses of electricity.

If factories were running more, he says they'd be taxing the power system. While Dotter says his grid is ready for the demand, the power will be expensive. When demand peaks, suppliers rely on all available generators, including older, inefficient plants and those that use more costly fuels, like natural gas.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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