FuelCell Energy announces layoffs at CT corporate office, production facility

FuelCell Energy (WFSB)

FuelCell Energy announced layoffs on Thursday to help cut costs at their facilities in Connecticut.

Fuel cell manufacturer said it will eliminate 96 positions at its North American production facility in Torrington, the corporate office in Danbury and other remote locations. The layoffs are about 17 percent of the company's global workforce.

"It is a tough time, but this sometimes has happened in December, I have seen where companies planning on exciting things for the new year and then there's a little blip," said Joann Ryan, of the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce.

The company said it is looking to reduce operating costs by about $6 million annually. The layoffs could lead to "delays in anticipated order flow. "

“We are streamlining our business and cost structure as we reduce our production levels to meet the backlog we have today while positioning the Company for long term success. Our employees are our most valued assets so the decision to reduce our workforce was not made lightly,” Chip Bottone, who is the president and chief executive officer at FuelCell Energy said in a statement on Thursday.

UConn finance professor Fred Carstensen says FuelCell Energy lost out on major state projects in recent years, combined with the low price of oil and the jobs may not be coming back.

“I don't know whether they are coming back to Connecticut. I mean, one of the problems is that the state certainly has lost its credibility to commitment to the fuel cell industry,” Carstensen said.

Carstensen says the state has invested tens of millions of dollars in this form of clean energy, but then ignored the industry when big projects arose.

Ryan said the company is scheduled to train workers at the chamber's offices for the next two weeks, despite these layoffs.

In a statement, the Department of Economic and Community Development said "Companies regularly experience ebbs and flows in workforce levels based on market conditions. It is unfortunate the company had to make this difficult business decision, but we continue to believe that FuelCell and the state’s green energy sector have a promising future. FuelCell Energy has been a great and cooperative partner with DECD and we have every confidence they will be able to recover and reach their job creation benchmarks.”

The state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection released a statement saying "Our two recent Requests for Proposals for clean energy projects were open to all technologies - including wind, solar, fuel cells, battery storage and more. Detailed and well established selection criteria under these RFPS was designed to allow us to select projects that provide the most benefit to families and businesses who pay electric bills. While generating facilities involving fuel cells were not selected in this process, fuel cells are an attractive and important energy source and there are state initiatives to take advantage and encourage this technology. Fuel cells have been a power source of choice for microgrids - localized power and distribution networks that keep on running even when the larger grid is down. A third round of funding for this grant program was recently announced with $30 million provided by the state Bond Commission. In addition, the two electric distribution companies, Eversource and UI, have signed contracts to purchase power from about 60 fuel cell projects under a program designed to increase the amount of clean energy sources in our state."

The company builds and designs clean fuel cell power plants.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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