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

Nov 11 (Reuters) – More than 1,000 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 over concerns about slave labor, federal customs officials said. Career resources.

The scale of the previously unannounced seizures reflects how the policy of piling pressure on Beijing over Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang is undermining the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the U.S. power sector to fight climate change.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 1,053 pieces of solar energy equipment between June 21 and October 25, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act took effect, it told Reuters in response to a public records request. Still released.

Citing federal law that protects confidential trade secrets, the company would not reveal the manufacturers or confirm details about the volume of solar equipment being shipped.

However, three industry sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the detained products included panels and polysilicon cells with a capacity of 1 gigawatt and were primarily made by three Chinese manufacturers – Longyi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd ( 601012.SS ), Trina Solar Co Ltd ( 688599.SS and JinkoSolar Holding Co (JKS.N).

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Combined, Longi, Trina, and Ginko typically account for about one-third of U.S. panel supplies. But industry sources said companies have halted new shipments to the U.S. due to concerns that additional cargo could also be held up.

The sources asked not to be named as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

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

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news conference on Friday that claims about the use of forced labor in Xinjiang were “a lie of the century fabricated by a small group of anti-China figures” and would hinder the global response to climate change. .

“The U.S. side should immediately stop unjustly suppressing China’s photovoltaic companies and release the seized solar panel components as soon as possible,” he said.

In an email, Ginko said it was working on documents with CBP to prove its supplies were not tied to forced labor and was “hopeful the ships will be cleared.”

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Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.

The ban poses a challenge to U.S. solar development at a time when the Biden administration is trying to decarbonize the U.S. economy and implement the Inflationary Reduction Act (IRA), a new law that promotes clean energy technologies to combat climate change.

Solar installations in the U.S. fell 23% in the third quarter, and nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects are delayed, according to the American Clean Power Association trade group.

The ACP urged the Biden administration to streamline the vetting process for imports.

“After more than four months of solar panels being reviewed under the UFLPA, nothing has been rejected and instead they are mired in endless limbo,” it said in a statement.

The UFLPA essentially considers all products from Xinjiang to be made with forced labor and requires manufacturers to show proof of imported equipment for the raw material.

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

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Longi, Trina and Jinko get most of their polysilicon from Hemlock Semiconductor, a joint venture between US and European suppliers Hemlock Semiconductor, 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. arrests, but said the company sources quartzite from suppliers in Norway, Spain and France.

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

In a statement, Hemlock sources all metallurgical-grade silicon from suppliers using quartz mined in North and South America.

CBP said it detained about 1,700 shipments worth $516.3 million under the UFLPA as of September, but has not previously detailed how many of those shipments contained solar equipment.

The European Union has proposed a ban on products from Xinjiang, but has not implemented it.

Statement by Nicola Groom; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai; Editing by Richard Waldmanis, Lisa Schumacher, Lincoln Feist and David Evans

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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