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 previously unreported level of seizures shows that pressure on Beijing over Uyghur prison camps in Xinjiang risks slowing the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the US energy sector to combat climate change.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 1,053 pieces of solar equipment between June 21 and Oct. 25, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act went into effect, according to a public records request. has yet to be released.

Citing federal laws that protect trade secrets, the agency would not identify the manufacturers or confirm details of the quantity of solar equipment in the shipment.

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

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Together, Longi, Trina and Ginco account for up to one-third of US panel supply. But companies have halted new shipments to the U.S. out of concern that additional shipments could be delayed, industry sources said.

The sources asked not to be named because they are not authorized to provide public information on the matter.

China denies the violence in Xinjiang. Beijing initially denied the existence of any concentration camps, but later admitted it had set up a “vocational training center” in Xinjiang needed to curb terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Liqian told a regular press conference on Friday that claims of forced labor in Xinjiang are “a lie of the century, concocted by a few people against China” and will hinder the global response to climate change. .

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

Jinko said in an email that it is working with CBP on documentation to prove that the shipment is not related to forced labor and is “confident that the shipment will be accepted.”

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Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.

The challenge for U.S. solar development comes as the Biden administration scrambles to implement the Decarbonization and 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, with nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects delayed, according to the American Clean Energy Association, a trade group, due to a lack of panels.

ACP called on the Biden administration to streamline the import inspection process.

“After more than four months of inspecting solar panels under the UFLPA, not a single one has been rejected, but they are still stuck endlessly,” the statement said.

The UFLPA essentially considers all goods from Xinjiang to be produced by forced labor and requires manufacturers to provide documentation of the source of imported equipment back to raw materials before import can be certified.

CBP would not comment on the duration of the detentions or when they might be released or turned away. “Ultimately, it comes down to how quickly the importer can provide sufficient documentation,” CBP spokeswoman Rhonda Lawson said.

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

A Wacker spokesman would not comment on the U.S. inmates, but said the company gets its 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 manner that respects human rights,” said spokesman Christoph Bachmayr.

Hemlock said in a statement that all metallurgical silica is sourced from suppliers using quartz mined in North and South America.

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

The EU has also proposed a ban on products from Xinjiang, but has not implemented it.

Reporting by Nicola Groom; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai; Edited by Richard Valdmanis, Lisa Schumaker, Lincoln Feast and David Evans

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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