Exclusive: U.S. blocks more than 1,000 solar shipments over Chinese slave labor concerns

Nov 11 (Reuters) – More than 1,000 shipments of solar energy components worth hundreds of millions of dollars have piled up at U.S. ports since June under a new law banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region, federal customs officials said. industrial sources.

The level of previously unreported seizures reflects the threat that the policy to pressure Beijing over the Uyghur camps in Xinjiang could slow the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the US energy sector to combat climate change.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 1,053 solar-powered devices between June 21 and October 25, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act went into effect, Reuters reported in response to a public records request. was also released.

The agency, citing federal trade secret law, will not identify manufacturers or confirm the number of solar devices in shipments.

Three industry sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the products seized included panels with a capacity of up to 1 gigawatt and polysilicon cells, and primarily from three Chinese manufacturers – Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd ( 601012.SS ), Trina Solar Co Ltd ( 688599 .SS) and JinkoSolar Holding Co (JKS.N).

Together, Longi, Trina, and Jinko typically make up about one-third of US panels. But companies have halted new shipments to the United States amid concerns that additional cargoes will also be intercepted, industry sources said.

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The sources asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing initially denied there were any detention camps, later admitting it had set up “vocational training centers” in Xinjiang needed to curb terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular news briefing on Friday that claims of forced labor in Xinjiang were “a lie of the century concocted by a small anti-China group” and would hinder the global response to climate change. .

“The US side should immediately stop the unjustified crackdown on China’s photovoltaic factories and release the seized solar panel components as soon as possible,” he said.

In an email, Jinko said he was working with CBP on documentation to prove his shipments were free of forced labor and was “confident the shipments will be accepted.”

Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.

A challenge for U.S. solar development comes as the Biden administration seeks to decarbonize the U.S. economy and implement the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a new law that encourages clean energy technologies to combat climate change.

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Solar installations in the United States slowed by 23% in the third quarter, and nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects are delayed, largely due to the inability to get panels, according to the United States Clean Energy Association, a trade group.

ACP urged the Biden administration to streamline the import inspection process.

“For more than four months, none of the solar panels reviewed by the UFLPA have been rejected and instead they have been stuck in an impasse with no end in sight,” the report said.

The UFLPA basically assumes that all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor and requires manufacturers to show the original documentation of the imported equipment back to the raw material to prove otherwise before the import can be cleared.

CBP would not comment on the length of detentions or when they might be released or dismissed. “Ultimately, it depends on how quickly the importer can submit sufficient documentation,” CBP spokeswoman Rhonda Lawson said.

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Longi, Trina and Jinko get most of their polysilicon from US and European suppliers, such as Hemlock Semiconductor, a Michigan-based joint venture between Corning Inc and Shin-Etsu Handotai Co Ltd, and Germany’s Wacker Chemie, industry sources said.

A Wacker spokesman would not comment on the US arrest, but the company said it sources quartzite from suppliers in Norway, Spain and France.

“Our procurement strategy gives us every reason to believe that the products used in our supply chain are made in a manner that respects human rights,” said spokesman Christoph Bachmayr.

Hemlock said in a statement that it sources all metallurgical grade silicon from suppliers using quartz mined in North and South America.

CBP previously said it had intercepted about 1,700 shipments worth $516.3 million under the UFLPA through September, but never said exactly how many of those shipments contained solar equipment.

The European Union also proposed a ban on products from Xinjiang, but did not implement it.

Nicola Husband report; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai; Edited by Richard Valdmanis, Lisa Shumaker, Lincoln Feast, and David Evans

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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