GE job cuts in UK linked to Swansea lagoon decision lag

More than a thousand jobs set to be lost over GE Power business restructuring in the UK have been linked to the continued delay of the UK government to make a decision on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon scheme.

Namely, the US-based conglomerate corporation GE has in the beginning of December announced plans to reduce 12,000 positions of its global power division workforce – potentially affecting 1,100 jobs across all parts of the UK GE Power business.

The move comes due to fall in demand for new power stations and reduced investment by its clients across Western Europe, according to GE.

The company said the job losses will primarily affect GE’s workers in Stafford and Rugby in the English Midlands – the sites where GE planned to manufacture and assemble key components for the power generation system of the proposed Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

Swansea Bay tidal lagoon turbine (Image: GE)

To remind, GE and Andritz Hydro have in 2015 been selected by Tidal Lagoon Power, the developer behind the project, to supply 16 bi-directional turbines for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

The project’s 16 generators – the highest value component in the 700-tonne turbines – would be produced at GE’s Rugby facility, sustaining employment and investment there, it was decided back in 2015.

However, as the UK government still hasn’t made any guarantees on whether the £1.3 billion project will go ahead – meaning there’s no guaranteed work that could arise from the project – GE Power will allegedly cut 500 jobs at both Stafford and Rugby, The Times reports.

Tidal Lagoon Power is still awaiting the subsidy agreement with the UK government, despite being backed by a government-commissioned review, conducted by former energy minister Charles Hendry.

But, recent media reports suggest the support among the cabinet ministers for the project seems to be dwindling as they are said to believe the lagoon does not justify value for money for taxpayers.

The Times also reports about the potential missed opportunity for UK jobs due to the possibility that GE could source the equipment for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon through its French plants, should the government green-light the project too late.

Artist’s Impression – Swansea Bay tidal lagoon (Image: TLP)

Mark Elborne, President and CEO GE UK & Ireland said, said: “Regrettably, the proposed changes would have an impact on jobs in the UK. These are not proposals we ever make lightly and we understand that this news will be difficult for many people. Unfortunately, we believe that these changes are necessary to ensure that we can remain competitive and secure the future of GE Power in the UK.”

Elborne added the consultation period with the staff has been set in place before any final decisions are made.

If constructed, the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon will have the capacity of 320MW. It will comprise 16 hydro turbines, a six-mile breakwater wall, and be capable of generating electricity for 155,000 homes for the next 120 years.

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