The New York Times had quoted the study of strategic advisory agency Horizon Advisory, which states that renowned Chinese solar suppliers, including GCL-Poly, East Hope, Daqo New Energy, and Jinko Solar, are currently working with the Chinese government by manufacturing products in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and issues like these are usually implicated with forced labor and human rights.
The Chinese government has denied any existence of forced labor and maltreatment, and commented on the misrepresentation of the speculations, though the increasing number of survey reports and personal interviews have resulted in a continuous focus on the human rights and re-education camps of Xinjiang. After a report of the US Department of States from summer 2020 mentioned that Xinjiang and other Chinese supply chains may be implicated with forced labor, the US House of Representatives had passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020 at the end of September, and asks all US listed companies to publicly disclose all supply chains and activated related to Xinjiang. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has also announced the prohibition for the import of all cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) commented in October last year that it will not tolerate and depend on suppliers who are involved with forced labor in Xinjiang; however, most of the multi polysilicon in the world come from China, which is estimated at more than 75% by Wood Mackenzie. Industry analysts believe that half of the aforementioned figure is produced in Xinjiang.
Nathan Picarsic, co-founder of Horizon, commented that this particular phenomenon is relatively common, and can even be described as “rampant”, which has something with the integration of Chinese upstream and midstream industries, as well as the roles that leading Chinese businesses portray.
Ian McCaleb, spokesperson of Jinko Solar, the world’s largest solar cell supplier and a board member of SEIA, commented during the interview with Wood Mackenzie that the company strongly condemns forced labor, and will not participate in any recruitment and work spaces of forced labor. Other suppliers, including GCL-Poly, Daqo New Energy, and TBEA, have yet to comment on the issue. Solar companies such as Jinko Solar, Trina North America, and Hanwha Q Cells have signed on the anti-forced labor agreement of SEIA.
SEIA commented that it has been supervising its members in retreating from the supplies of Xinjiang for the past several months, and is currently establishing a retrospective agreement on suppliers, which is expected to announce before the end of March, though solar companies are usually reluctant in disclosing their suppliers.
In addition to the consideration on cost and environment in the future, this report may also be used as one of the references of Biden’s green energy policy. Biden has proposed the US$2 trillion Green New Deal prior to the election, and has set out for the zero emission target by 2030, with possible further implementation in renewable energy of solar energy and wind power in the future. Although a more thorough planning is required, this report might complicate the green policy of Biden.
US used to be a leader in the production capacity of multi polysilicon in the past, though China’s duty imposition on US multi polysilicon in 2014, and the substantial subsidization for local Chinese suppliers, had resulted in a predicament for US suppliers. Bloomberg News pointed out that it remains to be seen if the government is able to lend a helping hand to US multi polysilicon suppliers in the future, and encourage allies in seeking for supply chain replacement for the solar industry.
(Cover photo source: pixabay)