POWER Notebook: GE Plant in France, Targeted for Job Cuts, Will Not Close

The head of GE’s operations in France told a Paris newspaper that a French factory targeted for more than 1,000 job cuts will not close. GE last week said it wanted to make its operations in France more efficient and said changes would come at the Belfort plant in eastern France, which handles technology for GE Power’s hydro, gas, steam, and nuclear technology.

Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, had said he would try to save jobs at the plant after GE’s announcement on May 28. Job cuts were expected to be negotiated with the plant’s labor unions. GE had said it could cut up to 1,044 jobs at Belfort, where it employs about 4,300 workers, including 1,900 in the gas power unit. GE had said 792 job cuts could come from that unit, with other positions eliminated in support divisions.

Hugh Bailey, general manager of GE in France, in an interview published June 2 in the Paris-based Le Journal du Dimanche, was quoted as saying, “I want to be clear, Belfort will not close. It will remain GE Power’s number one industrial site in Europe.” Bailey in the interview also said sales of gas turbines manufactured at the plant dropped by half between 2017 and 2018. The gas turbine market has shrunk in recent years as power generators worldwide move from thermal generation to renewable resources.

Bailey in the interview said a restructuring of GE’s operations could affect businesses in other countries. “GE’s difficulties in energy are well known,” he said. “When it comes to this (job cut) project, the announcement is part of a global decision, which is then adapted on a European level, country by country.”

GE became one of France’s largest employers after purchasing French industrial group Alstom’s gas turbine manufacturing business in 2015. GE pledged to create 1,000 jobs in France as part of the deal in order to secure government support. The Alstom deal is considered a major reason for GE’s financial struggles in recent years. GE in February agreed to pay $56 million into a France reindustrialization fund after failing to create the promised jobs.

Duke Energy Wants to Speed Decommissioning of Florida Nuclear Plant

Duke Energy Florida on May 30 said it will ask state regulators for permission to decommission its Crystal River nuclear plant by 2027, decades ahead of its scheduled dismantling in 2074. The plant last produced power in 2009, and in 2013, Progress Energy Florida—a Duke Energy subsidiary at the time—announced a permanent closure.

Duke Energy in a release last week said it has a contract with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners (ADP), a company formed last year by Orano (formerly Areva) and U.S. demolition specialists NorthStar, to decommission the plant for $540 million. The cost would be covered by the utility’s $717 million decommissioning trust for Crystal River, which ratepayers funded from 1977 to 2001. Customers now will not see an increase to their bills to pay for the accelerated decommissioning, according to Duke Energy.

The original cost of decommissioning was pegged at $1.18 billion. As part of the new deal, ACP also will take ownership of the spent nuclear material at the plant, now in dry cask storage. The material would be turned over to the Department of Energy (DOE) at such time as the DOE establishes a permanent U.S. repository for spent nuclear fuel.

Alabama Utility Completes Deal for Solar Power

The Alabama Municipal Electric Authority (AMEA) last week said Lightsource BP, a San Francisco California-based company that focuses on support for solar power projects mostly in smaller, rural communities, will finance, build, and own a $125 million solar power plant, delivering the electricity to AMEA under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

AMEA said the project—which had been delayed by concerns about the length of an associated tax abatement—will feature one of the state’s largest solar arrays, with more than 350,000 solar panels sited on 800 acres in rural Montgomery County. The project is expected to come online in 2021.

Publicly owned AMEA provides electricity to 11 municipal utilities in Alabama.

POWER staff reports (@POWERmagazine).