REC Silicon to cut 100 jobs blaming US-China trade dispute

The Moses Lake polysilicon factory. Source: REC Silicon. License: All Rights Reserved.

July 2 (Renewables Now) - Polysilicon and silicon gas supplier REC Silicon ASA (OSE:REC) said it will cut about 100 jobs in the US, blaming the country's on-going solar trade dispute with China.

The company will slash its current staff in Moses Lake, Washington by almost 40% on July 2 and reduce production at the Moses Lake facility to about 25% of total capacity. It said this is a result of the China-US solar trade dispute and reduced demand for solar grade polysilicon.

Fornebu, Norway-based REC Silicon will have about 400 employees at its facilities in Moses Lake, Washington and Butte, Montana after the layoffs. This compares to about 900 people employed in REC Silicon's US sites at its peak in 2011. The company said that because of the trade dispute it has not been able to access the Chinese market since 2014 and it has been forced to make successive layoffs to keep its operations in the US. Its facility in Butte, Montana will continue to supply the markets for semiconductor grade polysilicon and silicon gas products, which have not been affected by the solar trade dispute.

REC Silicon warned that the current market conditions will negatively impact the company's profitability and credit risk exposure and the company expects to recognise additional impairments to inventories, accounts receivable and fixed assets in its second-quarter results, to be released on July 19. Second-quarter revenues are expected to be about USD 58 million (EUR 49.9m) and fluid bed reactor (FBR) production 240 below guidance at 2,040 tonnes.

REC Silicon claims its FBR plant in Moses Lake "produces the lowest unsubsidized cost solar polysilicon in the world." The company said that "it is now absolutely urgent that the US Government takes steps to re-open the China market for US polysilicon production to avoid further job losses, avoid the loss of US technology leadership, to preserve this important part of the solar energy supply chain in the United States, to allow REC Silicon to re-start production, and most importantly allow us to re-hire our skilled and dedicated workers."

(USD 1 = EUR 0.860) 

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Plamena has been a UK-focused reporter for many years. As part of the Renewables Now team she is taking a keen interest in policy moves.

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