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EXCLUSIVE: US bans more than 1,000 solar shipments over China's slave labor concerns

EXCLUSIVE: US bans more than 1,000 solar shipments over China’s slave labor concerns

Nov 11 (Reuters) – More than 1,000 shipments of hundreds of millions of dollars of solar energy components have accumulated at U.S. ports since June under a new law banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns about slave labor, according to federal customs officials. industry sources.

The level of seizures, which have not been previously reported, reflects how a policy aimed at piling pressure on Beijing over Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang risks slowing the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the US energy sector to combat climate change.

The US Customs and Border Protection said it seized 1,053 shipments of solar equipment between June 21, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act went into effect, and October 25. after release.

The agency will not reveal the manufacturers or confirm details about the amount of solar equipment in the shipments, citing federal law that protects classified trade secrets.

However, three industry sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the products withheld include panels and polysilicon cells with a potential capacity of 1 gigawatt and mainly made by three Chinese companies – Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd. (601012.SS)Trina Solar Co., Ltd (688599.SS) And Jinko Solar Holding Company (JKS.N).

Longi, Trina, and Jinko together account for up to a third of the American painting supply. However, industry sources said that the two companies halted new shipments to the United States due to fears of holding additional shipments.

The sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

China denies violations in Xinjiang. Beijing initially denied the existence of any concentration camps, but later admitted it had set up “vocational training centers” necessary to curb what it called terrorism, separatism and religious extremism in Xinjiang.

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The allegations about the use of forced labor in Xinjiang are “the lie of the century fabricated by a small group of anti-China individuals” and will impede the global response to climate change, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing on Friday. .

“The US side should immediately stop the unreasonable suppression of China’s PV enterprises, and release the seized solar panel components as soon as possible,” he said.

In an email, Jenko said she is working with CBP on documentation that her supplies are not related to forced labor and she is “confident that shipments will be accepted.”

Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.

The bottleneck presents a challenge to US solar development as the Biden administration seeks to decarbonize the US economy and implement the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a new law that encourages clean energy technologies to combat climate change.

U.S. solar installations slowed 23% in the third quarter, and nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects were delayed, largely due to a lack of access to panels, according to the American Clean Power Association trade group.

The ACP urged the Biden administration to simplify the import audit process.

“After more than four months of reviewing solar panels under the UFDD, none have been rejected and instead remain stuck in limbo with no end in sight,” she said in a statement.

The UFLPA essentially assumes that all goods from Xinjiang are made from forced labor and requires producers to show source documents for equipment imported into raw materials to prove otherwise before imports can be cleared.

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CBP did not comment on the length of their detention or say when they could be released or denied. “Ultimately, it depends on how quickly the importer is able to provide sufficient documentation,” CBP spokeswoman Rhonda Lawson said.

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

A spokesperson for Wacker would not comment on the US arrests but said the company sources quartzite from suppliers in Norway, Spain and France.

“Our procurement strategy gives us every reason to be confident that the products used in our supply chain are made in a way that respects human rights,” said company spokesman Christoph Bachmer.

Hemlock said in a statement that it sourced all of the mineral silicon from suppliers that use quartz from North and South America.

CBP previously reported that it had held about 1,700 shipments worth $516.3 million under the UFLPA through September, but it had not previously said how many of those shipments contained solar equipment.

The European Union has also proposed a ban on products from Xinjiang but has not implemented any.

Nicola Groom reports. Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai. Editing by Richard Valdemanis, Lisa Shoemaker, Lincoln Fest and David Evans

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.