SunPower to cut 2,500 jobs amid struggles in the solar industry

A San Jose solar company announced plans Wednesday to cut 2,500 jobs, including about 200 in California, as part of an effort to restructure operations and reduce expenses.

Most of SunPower Corp.’s layoffs, which represent 25% of its workforce, are expected to come from its operations in the Philippines, the company said. 

SunPower Chief Executive Tom Werner said that "given the current market dislocation, we have made the strategic decision to implement a broad restructuring program to position the company for sustained, long term profitability.”

“We believe that our restructuring initiatives will enable us to successfully navigate through the current market transition and maximize cash flow while successfully positioning the company for the next phase of industry growth,” said Werner, who has led SunPower since 2003 and oversaw the company’s growth from 35 employees to 8,000.

But in August, SunPower began announcing layoffs amid struggles in the solar industry. At that time, the company said it would reduce its workforce by 15%, or 1,200 employees.

Just as with the current workforce reduction, the job cuts announced in August were primarily in the Philippines, where the company was closing a solar cell factory. In addition to the 200 layoffs in California, about 100 additional jobs will be cut in the U.S., a SunPower spokeswoman said.

The solar industry has been undergoing a wide range of changes as the energy sector has increasingly turned toward clean energy to combat climate change.

Competition has pushed down the cost of solar systems while other expenses, including labor, have remained stubbornly high.

“Supply is outpacing growth, which is hurting manufacturers,” said Bernadette del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Assn. “It's good for consumers.”

SunPower and other solar firms have been revamping their operations to prepare for the future. Despite the job cuts, SunPower said it sees a strong future for the company.

"This comprehensive restructuring program will enable us to successfully navigate the current challenging industry conditions while positioning us for success over the long term," said Chuck Boynton, SunPower’s chief financial officer. 

SunPower’s stock closed Wednesday at $7.95 a share, up 99 cents, or 14%. That was far below the stock’s high of $31.10 in the last year.

ivan.penn@latimes.com

For more energy news, follow Ivan Penn on Twitter: @ivanlpenn

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