Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Governor Perry’s Office Responds to SunPower Downsizing

SunPower, a company that benefited from Gov. Perry's Texas Enterprise Fund, has announced cut backs.

Last November, the California-based solar power giant SunPower announced it was moving to Austin. Taking advantage of $2.5 million from Governor Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund, the company promised to create 450 jobs in the Texas capital and make Texas its third largest office location.

Fast forward about a year: SunPower is downsizing.

In a statement, Thursday the company says it will cut operating costs by up to ten percent in the face of slowing demand for solar panels and competition from China.

Perry’s opponents in the GOP presidential primary might lick their lips at the prospect of the Governor throwing incentives at a failing solar power company (and its echoes of the Solyndra controversy at the White House). But the Governor’s Office is saying that SunPower’s cuts are not likely to translate into money lost by Texans.

“In general, if a company, for whatever reason, cannot meet the terms of their [Enterprise Fund] contract, they have to pay a clawback to the state,” said Governor’s Office Spokesperson Lucy Nashed. “Which is whatever money they were given plus interest. So it ends up being a win-win for the state. Either the jobs are created or the money is paid back with interest.”

Nashed said SunPower’s report on whether it delivered on promised economic benefit to Texas in its first year will reach the Governor’s Office in early 2012. Until then, she says, it won’t be clear how much money SunPower is due.

It is also unclear whether Texas operations will be targeted for any of the cuts SunPower announced this week. A request for comment emailed to the company Friday afternoon was not immediately return .


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