POWER generation companies are not allowed to shut down their operations despite falling energy demand amid the Luzon-wide lockdown, the Department of Energy (DoE) said on Thursday.

In an advisory dated March 23, the department informed of reports from trading participants at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) that they wish to halt the operations of their generating units for economic reasons.

“A decline in power demand does not mean that operations could and should be put to rest,” DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said in a separate statement on Thursday.

“In fact, as we battle the COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] crisis, now is the time for us to double our efforts to ensure that we can provide sufficient and continuous electricity services to each and every household, as well as across key industries of our country,” he added.

The DoE told the market participants that they should continue submitting their offers to the WESM.

Specifically, it told gencos “to exercise prudency in the submission of their offers and ensure utmost compliance to the instructions of the SO [system operator] to maintain market integrity and power system security.”

Citing the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP), the DoE noted a “significant” decline in electricity demand in the Luzon and Visayas grids since the implementation of the enhanced quarantine period.

Last Sunday, Robinson P. Descanzo, IEMOP chief operating officer and head of trading operations, told BusinessWorld in a text message that “the market is still continuous in its operations.”

He added that the power demand in Luzon is “significantly low compared to summer months” due to the lockdown.

“Unless the market is suspended pursuant to existing rules and regulations, the operation of the WESM shall continue and the WESM Rules and its Market Manuals must continue to govern,” the department said in the advisory.

As of March 25, electricity price in the WESM fell by P209 to P1,692 per megawatt-hour.

Meanwhile, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) said on Thursday that around 83 electric cooperatives had announced a 30-day extension for electricity consumers to settle their power bills amid the public health crisis.

NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong said the payment extension would help ease consumers’ financial burden, especially those hit by the enhanced community quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“My appeal to the electric cooperatives is to comply with the advisories of both the Department of Energy and the NEA since they also get reprieve from paying their obligations to their power suppliers,” he said in a statement.

Last week, NEA issued an advisory to the 121 electric cooperatives, as the infectious COVID-19 is expected to take a financial toll on many Filipino families and industries nationwide. — Adam J. Ang