Nov 11 (Reuters) – More than 1,000 shipments of solar power components worth hundreds of millions of dollars have piled up at US ports since June, under a new law banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region over slave labor concerns, federal customs officials and Industry Sources.
The level of seizures, which has not been previously reported, reflects how a policy aimed to put pressure on Beijing Uighur detention camps in Xinjiang There is a risk that the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the US energy sector to combat climate change will be slowed down.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has between June 21, when the Uyghur Labor Protection Act went into effect, and February 1. On February 25, it told Reuters in response to a request for public records, adding that none of the shipments have been released had been.
The agency would not disclose the manufacturers or confirm details about the amount of solar equipment in the shipments, citing federal laws protecting confidential trade secrets.
However, three industry sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the products seized include panels and polysilicon cells with a likely capacity of up to 1 gigawatt and are mainly manufactured by three Chinese manufacturers – Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd (601012.SS)Trina Solar Co Ltd (688599.SS) and Jinko Solar Holding Co (JKS.N).
Together, Longi, Trina, and Jinko typically account for up to a third of US panel shipments. But companies have halted new shipments to the United States over fears additional shipments will also be held up, industry sources said.
The sources asked not to be named as they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
China denies abuse in Xinjiang. Beijing initially denied the existence of detention camps, but later admitted it had set up “vocational training centers” necessary to curb terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in Xinjiang.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a regular news conference on Friday that allegations of the use of forced labor in Xinjiang were “the lie of the century invented by a small group of anti-China figures” and the global one would hamper response to climate change.
“The US side should immediately stop the unreasonable suppression of China’s photovoltaic companies and release the confiscated solar panel components as soon as possible,” he said.
In an email, Jinko said it is working with CBP on documents proving its shipments are not linked to forced labor and is “confident the shipments will be allowed.”
Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.
The bottleneck is a challenge US solar development At the same time, the Biden administration is trying to decarbonize the US economy and implement the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a new law promoting clean energy technologies to combat climate change.
Solar installations in the United States fell 23% in the third quarter, and nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects are delayed, largely due to module unavailability, according to trade group American Clean Power Association.
ACP called on the Biden administration to streamline the import verification process.
“After more than four months of reviewing solar panels under the UFLPA, none have been rejected and instead they remain in limbo with no end in sight,” the statement said.
Essentially, the UFLPA assumes that all Xinjiang goods are manufactured using forced labor and requires manufacturers to provide procurement documentation from imported equipment to raw material to prove otherwise before imports can be cleared.
CBP declined to comment on the length of the detentions or when they might be released or denied. “Ultimately, it depends on how quickly an importer is able to provide sufficient documentation,” said CBP spokeswoman Rhonda Lawson.
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, the industry sources said.
A Wacker spokesman declined to comment on the US arrests, but said the company sources quartzite from suppliers in Norway, Spain and France.
“Our sourcing strategy gives us every reason to trust that the products used in our supply chain are manufactured with respect for human rights,” said spokesman Christof Bachmair.
Hemlock said in a statement that it sources all of its metallurgical-grade silicon from suppliers that use quartz from North and South America.
CBP has previously said it held about 1,700 shipments worth $516.3 million under UFLPA through September, but never previously detailed how many of those shipments included solar panels.
The EU also proposed a ban on products from Xinjiang, but did not implement it.
Reporting by Nichola Groom; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai; Edited by Richard Valdmanis, Lisa Shumaker, Lincoln Feast and David Evans
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