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 modules worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been in the U.S. since June under a new law banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region, according to federal customs officials and federal customs officials. Ports pile up. Industry sources.

The previously unreported seizures reflect a policy aimed at pressuring Beijing over its Xinjiang Uyghur internment camps, potentially slowing the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the U.S. power sector to combat climate change.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 1,053 shipments of solar equipment between June 21 and October 25, when Uyghur forced labor protection laws took effect, it told Reuters in response to a public records request, adding that the shipments None have yet been released.

Citing federal laws that protect classified trade secrets, the agency won’t reveal manufacturers or identify details on the number of solar devices in shipments.

However, three industry sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the seized products included panels and polycrystalline silicon cells, which could have a capacity of up to 1 gigawatt, mainly by three Chinese manufacturers, LONGi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd (601012.SS). ) manufacturing, Trina Solar (688599.SS) and JinkoSolar Holdings (JKS.N).

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LONGi, Trina Solar and Jinko together typically account for one-third of U.S. panel supply. But industry sources said the companies had stopped shipping to the U.S. amid fears that additional shipments would also be held up.

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

China denies violations in Xinjiang. Beijing initially denied the existence of any internment camps, but later admitted it had established “vocational training centers” necessary to curb what it said was terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in Xinjiang.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing on Friday that claims that Xinjiang uses forced labor are “a century-long lie fabricated by a small group of anti-China elements” that will hinder the global response to climate change.

“The U.S. side should immediately stop its unreasonable suppression of Chinese photovoltaic companies and release the seized solar panel components as soon as possible,” he said.

Jinko said in an email that it was working with CBP to demonstrate that its supplies were not related to forced labor and that it “believes that these shipments will be accepted.”

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LONGi and Trina Solar did not respond to requests for comment.

The bottleneck is a challenge to U.S. solar development 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.

U.S. solar installations fell 23% in the third quarter, with nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects delayed, largely due to a lack of access to panels, according to the Clean Energy Association trade group.

ACP urges the Biden administration to simplify the import review process.

“Following more than four months of UFLPA review of solar panels, none have been rejected, and instead they remain stuck with no end in sight,” it said in a statement.

UFLPA basically assumes that all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor, and requires producers to show procurement documents for imported equipment and raw materials before import clearance to prove otherwise.

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

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Industry sources say LONGi, Trina Solar and Jinko get most of their polysilicon from U.S. and European suppliers such as Hemlock Semiconductor, the Michigan joint venture between Corning and Shin-Etsu Semiconductor Ltd., and Germany’s Wacker Chemie.

A WACKER spokesman declined to comment on the U.S. detention, but said the company sources quartzite from suppliers in Norway, Spain and France.

“Our sourcing strategy gives us every reason to believe that the products used in our supply chain are manufactured in a way that respects human rights,” spokesman Christof Bachmair said.

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

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

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

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

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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