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How demand for alternative energy led General Electric to cut 12,000 jobs

The traditional power market is being upended globally. The loss of office and production 12,000 jobs at General Electric will be outside the United States, mostly. 

NEWARK — General Electric will cut 12,000 jobs in its power division as alternative energy siphons demand from coal and other fossil fuels.

The company said the cuts to both office and production jobs will help “right-size” GE Power in a traditional power market that is being upended globally.

The cuts, representing 18 percent of all jobs at GE Power, will take place largely outside the United States.

Many will be in Europe, where other energy companies have already announced reductions.

GE plans to cut 1,400 of its 4,200 positions in Switzerland over the next two years, the company said. While no facilities are expected to close in Switzerland, the company said the GE Power Conversion unit in Berlin and GE Grid Solutions in Moenchengladbach, Germany, would be closed.

GE plans to trim its German workforce by 1,600 positions.

Other German facilities that may be affected are in Mannheim, Stuttgart and Kassel, the company said.

While President Trump has pledged to revive the country’s beleaguered coal industry, similar disruptions to the power grid are taking place everywhere.

Power companies are moving away from coal due to environmental regulations that are in place or anticipated, as well as for economic reasons.

The cost of cleaner-burning natural gas, solar and other alternative energies continues to fall.

That has had an enormous impact on workers in the power generation industry.

Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in October suggests the top-growing job classification over the next nine years will be solar photovoltaic installers. Wind turbine service technicians came in at No. 2.

Most power generation in the United States is derived from fossil fuels, but the balance is shifting.

The Trump administration has promised to bolster nuclear and coal-fired power plants, even though those facilities are being retired at a steady pace. A number of former federal energy regulators have come out against the administration’s plans, calling it a step backward.

Changing habits have reduced the power that is consumed in most households, as has more efficient technology.

GE said reducing the number of positions, along with actions taken earlier this year, will help GE Power, based in Atlanta, trim costs by $1 billion in 2018.

GE is looking to reduce overall structural costs by $3.5 billion in 2017 and 2018.

“This decision was painful but necessary for GE Power to respond to the disruption in the power market, which is driving significantly lower volumes in products and services,” Russell Stokes, chief executive of GE Power, said in a statement.

— Associated Press

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